An overgrown, fortified citadel discovered in the Amazon rainforest may be linked to the legendary Cloud People of Peru, an ancient, white-skinned civilization that fell victim to war and disease in the 16th century.
The tribe had white skin and blonde hair, features that intrigue historians because there is no known European ancestry in the region, where inhabitants are normally much darker skinned.
The citadel is tucked away in one of the most far-flung areas of the Amazon. It sits at the edge of a chasm that the tribe may have used as a lookout to spy on enemies. The main encampment is made up of circular stone houses overgrown by jungle over 12 acres, according to archaeologist Benedict Goicochea Perez.
The Cloud People once commanded a vast kingdom stretching across the Andes to the fringes of Peru's northern Amazon jungle, before the Incas conquered it. The cloud reference is to the rainforests filled with cloud-like mist.
Victims of Measles, Smallpox
The people are believed to have sided with the Spanish-colonialists to defeat the Incas, but were killed by epidemics of European diseases, such as measles and smallpox. Much of their way of life, dating back to the ninth century, was also destroyed through pillaging that left little for archaeologists to examine.
Until recently, much of what was known about the lost civilization was from Inca legends, according to the London Daily Mail. Even the name they called themselves is unknown. The term Chachapoyas, or “Cloud People,” was given to them by the Incas.
Chachapoyas chronicler Pedro Cieza de Leon wrote of the tribe: “They are the whitest and most handsome of all the people that I have seen, and their wives were so beautiful that because of their gentleness, many of them deserved to be the Incas' wives and to also be taken to the Sun Temple. The women and their husbands always dressed in woolen clothes.”
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A stretch of Amazonian rainforest in northern Peru, once the territory of the Cloud People.