Archaeology of Indiana Jones


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chachapoyan demon

On Indy's journey to the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors, one of his Quechua porters encounters a monstrous idol hidden in the jungle. The porter runs screaming, and birds fly from inner recesses through its open mouth. The Raiders novel calls this statue a "Chachapoyan Demon."

chachapoyan demon



The Chachapoyan Demon scene was filmed on location on the Hawaiian Island of Kaua'i. "Hawaii Movie Tours" on Kaua'i owns a giant sculpture, a near-copy of the one used for Raiders, which they say was carved by the same artist. They call it "The Jaguar Tiki." The Jaguar Tiki is not quite identical to the Chachapoyan Demon seen in the film, lacking details such as the ears, arm, and large headdress. Nonetheless, the Jaguar Tiki is a terrific sculpture and you certainly get a sense of deja vu from seeing this vision out of Indy's adventures standing right in front of you.

chachapoyan demon sketch      chachapoyan demon and victim



The Chachapoyan Demon in Raiders was another fanciful touch, not meant to represent any real artifact. And yet, in another strange coincidence, there really are giant menacing statues hiding in the jungles and cliffs of the Chachapoyas region. One can easily imagine what it must have been like to encounter these weird faces by surprise.

The real Indiana Jones must have encountered one of the eight-foot-tall monumental Chachapoyan sarcophagi – the standing tombs of the ancient dead. The clay mummiform sculptures stand on inaccessible ledges and in niches on cliffs, a distinctive artifact of the Chachapoyan peoples who lived in the Andes in northern Peru.

This group of funerary sentinels stands in a remote location called Karajia. Their cliff ledge overlooks a narrow valley that runs northeast of the town of Chachapoyas. Almost all of the known Chachapoyan "demons" are sited in this valley. In the local dialect they are called "purumachus," and amongst the native people here they are believed to hold the bodies of great Chachapoyan warriors. The monuments strongly resemble the famous moai of Easter Island with their cubist, schematic aesthetic. Painted patterns decorate the simplified statue bodies, and the faces stare fiercely out over the valley below. Each tomb statue contains human remains in the fetal position at its base, and some are marked with skulls on poles rising above them.

The purumachus were first discovered and reported in 1893 by Indiana Jones' famous predecessor, the Swiss archaeologist Adolphe Bandelier, which must be why Indy is not surprised to see the Chachapoyan Demon he encounters in Raiders.

Who were the mysterious Chachapoyans? They're for real all right, and we'll find out in the next installment of The Archaeology of Indiana Jones. See you next month!

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karajia sarcophagi