At the end of the 15th century, the Chachapoyas region was invaded by the Inca Empire. What happened with the Peruvian population has always been uncertain, since only its history has been known by the narrations of the Incas and by the writings after the Spanish conquest.
These accounts affirmed that the native population was forcibly resettled by the Incas outside of Chachapoyas and dispersed throughout the rest of the Empire. However, a group of researchers has used genetics to find out what really happened.
The results have revealed that, despite the conquest of the Incas, the Peruvian population of Chachapoyas has remained genetically distinct, and has not been absorbed in its entirety. The diversity of DNA in their descendants is a fact.
The study arises from a collaboration between research institutes in Peru and Germany. The focus is on a key region in the transition between the Andes and the Amazon in northern Peru .
To punish and ensure control over rebel areas, it is believed that the Incas relocated millions of people through the four territories of their empire, the Tahuantinsuyo.
According to reports, the Incas found a fierce resistance in this area, the “Warriors of the Clouds“, belonging to the culture of Chachapoyas. This has caused that it becomes an ideal scenario to verify by means of the DNA the verisimilitude of the Inca histories.
“There is still a strong surviving Native American component , despite all the mixing with European genes since the Spanish conquest.The native component here is quite different from the main genetic network in the highlands of central and southern Peru. the Inca Empire and its successors, their conquests, road networks and empire-building originated, they ended up homogenizing the genetic composition of the area, “says the geneticist and one of the main authors of the study, Chiara Barbieri.
Barberi also explains that the people of Chachapoyas remained relatively isolated. “It seems that some genetic legacy of the Chachapoyas resisted the impacts of the Incas, to this day,” he adds.
The opponents: the conquest and the passage of time
Now the focus of attention is on linguistic research and recover the indigenous language of Chachapoyas.
Jairo Valqui , co-author, linguist and of Chachapoyano origin, adds that “when Quechua and Spanish arrived, the Chachapoyas local languages became extinct, recovering something from them is a true enigma and a challenge for linguists.” They left very few traces, but there are some characteristic combinations of sounds that still survive, one example being the names of people and the names of local places.”
Almost 500 years have passed since the beginning of the conquest of the Inca Empire and the probabilities to find reliable data seemed very remote. However, the culture of the Chachapoyas region left a legacy of archaeological remains so extensive that, according to the researchers, there are good prospects for recovering old DNA and continuing to fit all the pieces of this history.