Corbera said the walls in the limestone cave near the mummies were covered with wall paintings of faces and warrior-like figures that may have been drawn to ward off intruders and evil spirits.
“The idea now is to turn this cave into a museum, but we’ve got a huge amount of research to do first and protecting the site is a big issue,” Corbera said, adding that looters had already vandalized a small part of the cave in search of mummies or gold.
Some of the newly discovered ruins date to the seventh century, making them the oldest Chachapoya ruins yet known.
The ancient metropolis is located about 335 miles (540 kilometers) north of Lima and several days’ walk from the nearest road.
The site, originally uncovered in September 1999 and excavated in 2001, was further explored and cleared this year.
The latest expedition estimates at least 200 structures at the Las Cruces citadel, one among a half dozen main citadels at Gran Saposoa.
It has brought widespread attention to the Chachapoya, beginning with Gene Savoy’s discovery in 1965 of Gran Pajaten, a ceremonial center atop a jungle-covered peak.
Cloud People country: The climb to the Kuelap citadel above mists In addition to Gran Pajaten, the organization claims responsibility for recovering and exploring more than 40 Chachapoya ruins, including the Twelve Cities of the Condors in 1967, Gran Vilaya in 1985, and Gran Saposoa in 1999.
While the Chachapoya were skilled masons, Savoy said their stonework was not as fine as that of the Inca, which is renowned for its precision craftsmanship.
It is thought to cover more than 25 square miles (65 square kilometers).
Preliminary estimates put the population at about 10,000 people.
Mummified remains of a Chachapoyan child The Chacapoyas, a white-skinned tribe known as the “Cloud People” by the Incas because of the forests they inhabited above the cloudline in northern Peru, ruled the area from around 800 AD to around 1475, when they were conquered by the Incas.
GREAT WARRIORS But their strong resistance to the Incas, who built an empire ranging from northern Ecuador to southern Chile from the 1400s until the Spanish conquest of the 1530s, earned them a reputation as great warriors.