UMALA, Bolivia – Officials from various levels of government, leaders of Bolivia’s indigenous communities and members of the diplomatic corps were among the people who gathered on Wednesday to mark the completion of work to restore 11 burial towers that date from before the Inca empire.
The cluster constitutes “one of the most important depositories” of the legacy of the Aymara people, Leonor Cuevas, head of Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said during the ceremony, which began with a procession of dignitaries to the strains of traditional Andean music.
Located in Umala, some 130km (81mi) south of La Paz, the towers are relics of the civilization that flourished in the area from the 11th century to the late 15th century.
The structures, some as tall as 10m (33ft), are part of the Condor Amaya archaeological site. Known in the Aymara language as chullpas, they display a range of construction techniques.
While some are made only of sand, others include a mixture of earth, stone and thatch.
The chullpas are the “materialization of the spirituality that existed at the start of the Aymara people,” the director of the restoration, Irene Delaveris, told EFE.
The Greek specialist and her team spent four months restoring 11 of the 28 chullpas in Condor Amaya.
The original Aymara culture of the region was absorbed into the Inca empire, which in turn succumbed to the conquistadors in the 16th century.
Since then, mummies and artifacts have been looted from some of the chullpas, representing an incalculable loss to historians and archaeologists, Delaveris said.
Scientists and scholars continued to puzzle over the wide variety in sizes of chullpas and over whether the placement of bodies was based on social rank.
Questions also remain about why some chullpas are circular and others are cube-shaped.
The restoration of the Condor Amaya was the third phase of an effort mounted by the culture ministry with assistance from the Swiss Embassy in Bolivia.
The earlier phases entailed work at the Culli Culli and Qiwaya archaeological sites.