Kuelap Archaeological Complex
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Peru to UNESCO
Luya Province, Department of Amazonas
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Kuelap Archaeological Complex is located at the top of Barreta plateau, left margin of the Utcubamba River, some 3000 m.a.s.l., in the humid, montane “cloud forest” ecological zone of the northern Amazonian Andes of Peru. Since its discovery in the year 1843 A.D., Kuelap has been considered the most representative and important site of the cultural tradition known as the "Chachapoya". Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site was occupied between 500 and 1570 A.D.
The Chachapoya dominated a vast territory in the northern Andean slopes of Peru, to the east of the Marañón River, which has been anciently the natural border between the Amazonian cultures and those from the central highland Andes. Although little is known about the social and political organization of this macro-ethnic group, the settlements and other elements of their material culture share similar formal characteristics. Apparently, the Chachapoya were a conglomerate of semi-autonomous chiefdoms with a common cultural substrate, but without a centralized political entity. Nevertheless, according to colonial documents and ethnohistoric accounts, once they were incorporated to the Inca Empire, political unification was imposed to these independent groups in order to manage the area and have the control of their resources.
The Protected Zone of the Kuelap Archaeological Complex has an extension of 218.33 hectares, and the proposed Buffer Zone has an area of 609.67 hectares (see attached plan). Inside the Protected and Buffer Zone, there are at least 12 archaeological sites, all of them part of the Kuelap Archaeological Complex. It include burial areas with sarcophagi located on the top of the cliff faces surrounding the Barreta plateau, a main urban-ceremonial sector (The Fortress), a large unfinished extension located south of the urban-ceremonial sector, and an extensive rural area with groups of circular structures associated to extensive agricultural terraces on the east side of the complex.
In addition to the Protected Zone and the Buffer Zone, an Influence Zone surrounding the property is preliminarily proposed as an area to be included under official approval. At present, only the Protected Zone has been officially approved by the Ministry of Culture. The delimitation of the Buffer Zone proposed in the Management Plan involves the current population of the Kuelap Community, including the sector called Pampas de Uxul, inhabited by 65 families dedicated to agro-business activities. In this area, there are a number of small archaeological sites that exist within pre-hispanic cultivation fields, many of which continue to be used by the local population. The most important sites are: Pampa Linda, El Imperio, San José, Las Americas and El Lirio.
Beyond this agro-business production zone, the geological formation where Kuelap is located contains a natural landscape with very pronounced slopes not suitable for dwelling or farming purposes. This area is delimited by the Utcubamba River to the east, the Tingo River and the Sigsicucho Canyon to the north and northwest, and the Celcas Canyon to the south. The Tingo River, as well as the Celcas River, flow to the Utcubamba River. This area has been proposed as the Influence Zone, which is adjacent to small agricultural properties located at the bottom of the valley. The management of this zone is crucial regarding the need to control the fires originated by current farmers who use the technique of controlled fires (slash and burn technique) in extensive areas in order to prepare lands for cultivation and cattle pastures.
DESCRIPCTION OF THE PROPERTY COMPONENTS
In addition to the monumental area known as The Fortress, the archaeological complex consists of a burial sector located in inaccessible areas of the western flank of Cerro Barreta. To the south of The Fortress, there are traces of a massive wall with an access, and circular structures of an unfinished settlement locally known as La Malca. Toward the east side, the mountain has a less pronounced decline, where evidences of circular structures are mixed with current crop fields, including retaining walls of large ancient cultivation terraces. Thus, the most important sectors of the Kuelap Archaeological Complex are The Fortress, Pampa Linda, El Imperio, San José, El Lirio and Las Americas.
1. THE FORTRESS
Within Kuelap Archaeological Complex, highlights a monumental architecture compound known as "The Fortress", built entirely with massive stone blocks. It consists of a large walled enclosure containing more than 420 stone structures inside. The walled compound, which covers an area of almost 07 hectares, has an extension of 584 meters long and a maximum width of 110 meters. The massive wall, which at some point have 20 meters high, divide the site in two large terraces, with a high sector and a low sector. The High Sector or Upper Town is located to the northwest. It contains 80 circular structures and 03 rectangular structures, as well as 02 entrances in the east side of the wall. The Low Sector or Lower Town contains 335 circular structures and 02 rectangular structures, as well as two large access points. This sector contains only 06 decorated buildings with geometric friezes on the walls.
The outer wall is actually the outside of a large platform that contains a huge monumental stone fill, held together with clay mortar, which served as the base for the construction of the High and Low sectors of the Fortress. In its construction were used homogeneous blocks of limestone, characterized by standardize masonry techniques that created flat surfaced walls. These blocks were placed in horizontal rows in order to level the irregular surface of the hill. The main components of The Fortress compound are as follows:
1.a) Circular Structures
The circular structures were organized in the internal space of the Fortress creating three main patterns: the most common is the linear pattern, where the structures are aligned next to each other, creating a common frontal passageway. The second pattern organized buildings around a central patio. The third pattern consists of more irregular, agglutinated groups of circular structures.
The archaeological excavations demonstrate that the circular structures functioned as dwellings. It is common to find hearths in the interior, as well as artefacts associated with the preparation of food such as mills, grinding stones and mortars of different sizes, and diverse tools like hammerstones, anvils, polishers, stone and metal axes. At the same time is common to find kitchen and storage utilitarian ceramics within the structures.
An important element has been the discovery of human burials beneath the interior floors of the dwellings. Evidence of both primary and secondary burials have been found inside these tombs, where associated cultural artefacts have been scarce. There are also many rectangular tombs both inside and outside the circular structures.
The discovery of exotic (non-local) cultural material is evidence of inter-regional contact with other cultural traditions of the Peruvian territory, such as the Cajamarca of the northern highlands; the Moche, Lambayeque and Chimú of the north coast; the Recuay of the north-central highlands; the Huari of the central highlands and the Inca, from the southern highlands.
1.b) Decorated Structures
Only 06 circular structures with decorated surfaces have been preserved. This decoration was created through the use of thin slabs of slates from the lower valley. The slabs creates geometric reliefs on the wall surfaces, such as horizontal bands of geometric designs of diamond shapes and zig-zags. The archaeological evidence indicates that many of the circular constructions had the same type of decorative friezes, although they are not preserved due to wall collapse. Thus, it is difficult to understand the degree to which these decorative buildings may have reflected a higher social standing of the building and its occupants.
1.c) Upper Town
One of the most important sections of The Fortress is the sector known as the Upper Town, located toward the north side of the monument. This area is divided into three subsectors: north, central and south, each one with functional and architectural differences.
In the northern sector, there is a large tower located at the extreme end of the monument, which is attached to the outer wall on the one side, and the edge of the abyss on the other. Excavations in this building found a great quantity of rounded pebbles, possibly used as projectiles. Many secondary human burials were found in the backfill of the tower and the outer wall.
The central sector is characterized by three rectangular buildings. The first rectangular building has an extension of 27 meters in length and 08 meters in width, making it the largest structure of the entire site. The various entrances to this structure face a large open space, as do the other two rectangular buildings. The second building contains an inner filling, covered by a ceiling of large stone slabs. The building has been partially destroyed by looters, and is located in the south-eastern extreme of the upper sector. A little more to the north, there is a third rectangular sunken structure, but with slightly rounded corners. The presence of large open spaces and orthogonal structures in this sector would indicate it may have had a public or civic function.
In the southern sector, there are two superimposed platforms, one of them is completely covered by circular structures. In this sector the perimetral wall reaches a maximum height of 11 meters due to the topography of the land. The exception to this is the platform located in the highest part of this sector, where the remains of a circular building was found. This building was constructed with homogeneous thin stone slabs, a characteristic that makes it unique at the site.
1.d) Circular Platform
This structure is located on the top of the outer wall at the southern extreme of The Fortress. This building is unique, as it has a diameter of 23 meters and a maximum height of 1.80 meters. In the upper part, the circular platform includes an assemblage of 08 circular buildings and an underground burial structure located in the central part with large amounts of human skeletal remains. The 08 circular structures have a functional hierarchy in accordance with their size and their context. The three smaller structures have an average diameter of 4m., they were used as kitchen areas, associated with a large amount of household debris and artefacts. There are two other medium sized buildings without domestic debris, and a larger structure with a diameter of 8m. that might be the main residence, possibly used by a high social status person.
The most important context on this platform was the discovery of a large quantity of human skeletal remains of adult males and children with evidence of violent trauma in the form of multiple blows to the head. Injuries are consistent with stone mace weapons, typical of pre-hispanic societies in the Andean region. The archaeological context suggests that this violent episode must happened during the early years of Spanish colonial administration and appears to have been the result of local power struggles and its relation with the emerging colonial State. This event appears to be associated with evidence of a massive fire which destroyed many buildings.
1.e) Main Temple
The Main Temple correspond to a circular building located 13 m. north of the Circular Platform of The Fortress. It is a solid structure, known as "The Inkwell" (El Tintero) since it looks like an inverted truncated cone, with the walls inclined forwards. It has a maximum diameter of 13.5 meters and 05 meters high. On the roof of the structure there is a small, circular orifice that leads to an interior pit that served as an ossuary. The archaeological evidence suggests that the building had a covering and that the upper platform was the setting for rituals and complex mortuary ceremonies around the ossuary orifice.
The Main Temple is a unique building within the regional archaeology and is associated with burial ceremonies and ritual offerings of animals and human beings, as well as artefacts made with exotic materials, such as Spondylus shells, obsidian, semi-precious stones and fine ceremonial vessels.
2. PAMPA LINDA
This site is located to some 300 meters to the east of The Fortress of Kuelap, on a slightly sloped plain, linked to the main site via a path toward the south. The site includes a set of successive terraces of many sizes that are contained by stone walls to suit the topography. These terraces are associated with a few circular stone structures in a poor state of preservation. The site covers approximately 2 hectares. Part of the site is exposed and is currently being used for agricultural activities, the abandoned sectors are covered by bushy vegetation.
3. EL IMPERIO
This archaeological site is located to the east of The Fortress of Kuelap. Both sites are linked through a path that splits off the main road to the level of San José sector to the south. It is completely covered by a dense forest that makes the access very difficult. The landscape is modified by a series of stone terraces adapted to the local topography. On these terraces a series of approximately 40 circular structures have been documented, whose dimensions vary between 7 and 8 meters in diameter, with standardized walls of 0.50 meters wide; in some cases there is evidence of a plaster finish on the walls. As part of this site, 08 rectangular structures have been registered. The largest one is 18 meters long, 6.30 meters wide and 6 meters tall. In one case, there is an entrance of 1.60 meters with well-preserved plaster finishing on the interior surfaces. The site has an approximate area of 1.5 hectares and is in a reasonable good state of conservation.
4. EL LIRIO
This site is located to the east of The Fortress of Kuelap, on an area that is accessible from the main path. It is composed of extensive agricultural terraces distributed across an area of approximately 1.5 hectares. There is evidence of dispersed rectangular and circular structures in the area, but in a poor state of preservation. The place has been looted and several archaeological structures have been dismantled in order to build the stone fences that delimit the neighboring properties.
5. SAN JOSÉ
Corresponds to an archaeological site of 4 hectares, with extensive agricultural terraces adapted to the topography. Some circular structures have been registered, although the total number is still unknown. At present the site is partly used by local peasants, who have reused the terraces for agricultural purposes. Nevertheless, several sectors of the site continue to be covered by vegetation. The terrace platforms are in a regular state of preservation, many of them are still intact.
6. LAS AMÉRICAS
Corresponds to an archaeological site with approximately 50 circular structures of diferent sizes, built on the top of large terraces. The site is currently covered by a dense forest, which makes very dificult to access the site. Inside the complex there is a rectangular structure of 7 meters long, 6 meters wide and 3 meters high. The place has an approximate extension of 2 hectares and is in fair state of preservation.
7. LA MALCA
This sector is located toward the south side of The Fortress of Kuelap, and occupies the highest part of the southern extreme of Barreta hill. This place was abandoned before its culmination, apparently it was conceived as an extension of The Fortress. It consist of segments of a massive wall located along the west side of the rocky formation. It has a north-south main axis and its final extreme turns toward the south, but remain incomplete along the eastern side. The wall extended nearly 1km. with segments as high as 2 meters and an entrance passway with trapezoidal shape similar to that of the Fortress of Kuelap, with a height of approximately 6 meters and an extension of 12 meters. In the upper part of the site there is evidence of many circular structures in a poor state of preservation. These structures are isolated along the rocky outcrop, but are more or less uniformly distributed close to the south end of the Fortress of Kuelap. There are at least 20 circular structures. This part of the site is covered by dense vegetation and is difficult to access.
8. LA BARRETA
This site consist of several funeral structures located in the west and north flanks of the Barreta hill. It is composed of many groups of semi-circular and rectangular funeral structures. There are more structures located along the rock formations of the vertical cliff faces of the Barreta hill, but are not easily reached due to the dense vegetation. These structures have not been properly investigated, but it is asummed that there are at least 20 funeral structures in this sector. Some structures are visible along the lower ledges of the Barreta hill. In broad terms, the site has an extension of 2 kms, north to south. In spite of being located in areas with no formal access, most funeral structures are in a poor state of preservation due to extensive looting and destruction.
9. LA PETACA
La Petaca is located on the slope of the Barreta hill, a short distance to the south wall of The Fortress, along a sharply inclined slope covered by a dense forest. The site extends some 35 meters from north to south and has a maximum width of 2.5 meters in the central part. It corresponds to burial remains located on a wide natural rocky overhang that faces to the west and offers a narrow rocky ledge upon which are located completely destroyed remains of sarcophagi. Only a few dispersed skeletal remains can be observed on the surface.
Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionelle
The Archaeological Complex of Kuelap constitutes an exceptional and unique example of civic-ceremonial monumental architecture of the extinct Chachapoya culture from the Northeastern Andean Amazon of Peru. The great quantity of time and necessary labor to produce this monument, as well as the quality and complexity of the architecture, speaks to us of a society of highly organized individuals that knew how to take advantage of and to live together in harmony within the challenging environment of the Montane Cloud Forest, unique to the Andean Amazon. The presence of buildings with unusual forms and functions in the Chachapoya cultural tradition demonstrates the symbolic and ritual importance that this site held at a regional level. The discovery of cultural material from places as distant as the northern coast, the northern and southern highlands of Peru, is a clear indicator of the significance of the site and of the broad regional reach of their sphere of influence.
Criterion (iii): The Chachapoya Culture developed in the Northeastern Andean Amazon, in an area that extended for more than 300 km2. It is characterized for being covered with a dense tropical forest that in some areas extends up to 3000 meters above sea level. The Chachapoya Culture belongs to the "Archaeological Tradition of the Ceja del Selva", which is understood as a large number of ethnic groups that shared cultural elements, such as the utilitarian ceramic styles based on brown paste, settlement patterns, funeral traditions and architectural forms. This "Ceja del Selva Tradition" extended along the Eastern Andes, from Colombia to Bolivia. Nevertheless, what differentiates the Chachapoya from other Amazonian cultures belonging to the same tradition, is the common use of design patterns and techniques in architectural and funerary structure ornamentation. The circular structures are adorned with friezes that show distinctive designs; zig-zags and rows of diamonds were the most common motives.
Another typical element of the “Ceja del Selva Tradition” is the ceramic of brown paste, which has its origins in the Formative Period of Bagua and Tumbes in northern Peru, and Valdivia in Ecuador. This fact demonstrate the early interaction that existed along both sides of the mountain range of the Andes. In subsequent periods, the presence of ceramic designs and motifs from Cajamarca material culture were found in Kuelap, as well as stone sculpture with Recuay motifs in various places along the Utcubamba River Valley. These evidence show that the interaction between the northern Andean Amazon and the mountain cultures of the western side of the Andes was fairly consistent over time.
The recent archaeological excavations at Kuelap have determined that the occupation of the site was initiated in the Early Intermediate Period, around the year 400 A.D. and continued to the year 1570 A.D. The majority of superficially visible structures correspond to the Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 900 – 1475). The two last occupations at the site were shorter than the previous ones, they are linked with the Inca conquest of the region and with the subsequent Spanish occupation. Kuelap was abandoned finally around the year 1570 A.D. when Viceroy Toledo started an administrative and physical reorganization of the indigenous population, known as “Reducciones de Indios”, which generated a massive and mandatory displacement of the native communities from their ancestral territories into new settlements (Reducciones) through the advancement and consolidation of the colonial power in the region.
Kuelap constituted one of the places that presents greater pre-hispanic occupational continuity in the Andean Amazon. This and other elements are important in establishing Kuelap as a unique site in Northeastern Andean Peru. These features can be summarized as follows:
a) There is no other archaeological site in the Northeastern Andes with the dimensions of Kuelap. It required an enormous investment in labor and constructive materials to build the artificial platform upon which 500 buildings were organized in a complex way, as well as incorporating aspects of deep ritual meaning into structures with domestic, residential and craft production functions.
b) The Main Temple of Kuelap constitutes, at the same time, a unique building in all of Andean region. The unusual form and the extraordinary context discovered around the inner ossuary indicates that it was a building of enormous ceremonial value, not only for those who inhabited in the site, but for all the Chachapoya communities in
the region. The site was so important that it was associated with materials from very distant places, such as the northern coast and the northern and southern highlands, including Cajamarca, Ayacucho and Cusco.
c) Both the outer massive wall and the interior wall that delimits the Upper Town contain a large quantity of secondary human burials. These burial locations are interpreted as the tangible demonstration of the desire of the Chachapoya communities to bury their members in places with deep ceremonial and spiritual meaning. This ritual acts were design to consecrate not only the entire site, but also the environment, converting the site and the surrounding landscape into one of the most sacred spaces of the Chachapoya people, which was “filled” with the powerful ‘lifeforce’ of their ancestors.
d) The natural setting around the monument, characterized by high peaks and hills cut by deep canyons and rushing streams fed from the high altitude lakes, give the site a spectacular landscape backdrop. This context includes the Cuchacuella Lake, located approximately to 18 kms to the southwest of the site, that according to ethnohistoric information, was the main pre-colombian huaca or sacred place of the Chachapoya people. Therefore, Kuelap is inextricably linked with special features of the natural landscape, making it inimitable and unique.
Criterion (iv): The settlement patterns of Chachapoya sites shows not only the capacity of human adaptation to an ecosystem which is especially adverse to the development of complex societies, but is also an exceptional example of harmonious adaptation to this environment. Kuelap, just like the majority of Chachapoya settlements, was built on the top of a mountain for not only defensive purposes, but also to avoid constantly threatening landslides. Nevertheless, the distinctive feature is the great exterior wall, that is repeated in smaller dimensions in other sectors of the same site. These large walls are a significant and unique architectural feature, characterizing the monumental site. They have not been registered in other archaeological sites in the region. At the same time, the presence of several clearly ceremonial structures, as well as the important amount of secondary burials, demonstrates that Kuelap had a symbolic meaning and was a particularly important ritual space for the Chachapoya people.
The constructive technology of the Chachapoya culture, as has been registered specially at the Kuelap Fortress , was based on the following characteristics, demonstrating the quality and complexity in its engineering:
a) Regular masonry, which is characterized by homogeneously shaped and sized limestone blocks, organized in uniform and leveled rows.
b) The limestone blocks have been designed in a triangular form, in such a way that the top fits into the backfill, giving it an increased structural stability. The joints between each limestone block and among each row of blocks were filled using a fine mortar of local clay.
c) Through appreciable differences between segments of the outer massive wall, it is assumed that these segments were built in an independent way, perhaps by distinct groups of laborers. This suggests that the massive walls were built trhough sections.
d) The outer massive wall adapts to the natural contours of the underlying bedrock. Through the height of the massive wall, the constructors gave it the necessary inclination in order to guarantee its structural stability.
e) The backfill to the massive wall was built by means of placing limestone rocks in segments of diverse thickness and height, one next to the other. In order to reach the stability of this constructive system, stones were cutted in the shape of "keys" or "nails" that served to hitch one with the other, giving the backfill more stability.
f) The construction of the massive wall was done by segments, both in the backfill and in the outer walls. This seems to indicate a system of labor organization that testifies to a form of community based work, thus permitting a quantification of the investment of human and material resources, as well as the construction time invested by each participating group.
g) In spite of the fact that several sectors of the external face of the massive wall has collapsed, the technology and the backfill constructive system used by the Chachapoya constructors, has given the entire site with sufficient stability to maintain intact the upper platform where more than 500 prehispanic structures are still in place.
h) The geological formation where the archaeological complex is located was used as a quarry for the elaboration of the specially carved limestone blocks used for the large walls and buildings with higher social and ritual significance. The residues and debris of this quarrying process were used and recycled in many different ways by the Chachapoya constructors: as the fill of the massive wall and for the construction of walls and bases of many circular structures.
Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité
STATEMENT OF AUTHENTICITY
The authenticity of the Kuelap Archaeological Complex is unquestionable. It does not have evidence of human intervention since its abandonment in the XVI century to its rediscovery in the 19th century. In spite of the natural factors that have negatively impacted the conservation of different sectors of the complex, a large part of the site’s components are found in conditions that permit a clear reading of the different architectural traces.
The results of the recent scientific investigations has permited to say that the Kuelap Archaeological Complex was a major religious center for the Chachapoya people; likely a place of permanent pilgrimage motivated by the ritual architecture and the sacred geography of the environment. The community labor invested over more than 1000 years, made possible this monument, which acquired in the end, the characteristic "defensive" structure that protected the religious buildings.
The orderly and organized assemblage of more than 500 buildings in the interior of the archaeological complex, which alternated with spaces of highly ritual nature and public spaces, imbues Kuelap with a mixture of unique characteristics with respect to the universe of other Chachapoya sites in the Northeastern Andean Amazon of Peru.
STATEMENT OF INTEGRITY
The integrity of the Kuelap Archaeological Complex is found justified as it reunites all the elements expressed under the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. The Protected Zone (220 hectares) does not have significant human activities that jeopardize the conservation of the site. The Buffer Zone (609.67 hectares) preserves all the ecosystems formed since the Pleistocene in a sufficient area for the continuity and long-term conservation of natural ecological and biological processes. Likewise, it contains all the physical elements of domestic, ceremonial and productive structures (agricultural terraces and storage areas), as well as cemeteries and roads that remain intact. Any alterations are not substantial and had been originated mainly by natural causes that have not implied the loss of integrity. Moreover, conservation works done at the site in the last few years, have had the aim to consolidate the ancient walls, prevent their decay and rehabilitate the original drainage system, without adding any new odd element.
One of the most relevant aspects of the monument is the fact that not only the large walls maintain their original height, but the most important buildings and their entrances also conserve extensive evidence of their original dimensions, from the base to the top of the walls. The partial collapse of several of the sections of the most noticeable architecture (religious and public buildings), do not obscure in any way the monumentality and extraordinary conservation of the architecture.
The most affected elements in its integrity are the circular structures within the interior of the site, mainly as a result of a fire during the site’s abandonment in the year 1570 A.D., as well as because of the growth of natural vegetation of the cloud forest, which has also caused the decay of several walls.
In general, is quite obvious the form in which natural proceses have affected the archaeological remains; nevertheless, 500 years after its abandonment, nature and architecture have developed an equilibrium where the vegetation works as a natural barrier to the erosion caused by the constant rains.
Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires
Kuelap Archaeological Complex and UNESCO Global Strategy
As part of UNESCO Global Strategy for a balanced, credible and representative World Heritage List, ICOMOS devised a study for the identification of categories of cultural heritage that were under-represented in the World Heritage List as in the Tentative Lists of the States Parts ("Filling the Gaps: An Action Plan for the Future". ICOMOS, 2005). As a consequence of the study, they devised diverse typological categories for the classification of World Heritage, in order to identify those sub represented categories in the World Heritage List. Such categories were grouped in three non-exclusive qualifying frameworks:
1. Typological Classification
2. Chronological – Regional Classification
3. Thematic Classification
In the framework of the Typological Classification, the Kuelap Archaeological Complex would be classified as "Archaeological Heritage". According to the study of ICOMOS, in Latin America only 17% of the places registered in the World Heritage List are located as part of this category.
In the framework of the Chronological – Regional Classification, the Kuelap Archaeological Complex would be classified in the category "Amazon Cultures of South America", that according to the analysis of ICOMOS, would not be represented in the World Heritage List (This study did not included mixed and natural sites, such as Rio Abiseo National Park and the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu).
In the framework of the Thematic Classification, the Kuelap Archaeological Complex would be classified in the theme "Creative Answers and Continuity", at the same time as in the subthemes of "Uninhabited Urban Settlement" and "Sacred Settlement". This last subtheme being quite rare on the List.
Therefore, it can be considered that the inclusion of the Kuelap Archaeological Complex in the World Heritage List would be fully justified since it constitutes a distinctive site in several heritage categories that are found under represented in the World Heritage List.
At the national level, there are two Peruvian sites included in the World Heritage List with which the Kuelap Archaeological Complex can be compared: Rio Abiseo National Park and the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, both located on the eastern slopes of the Andean cordillera. In both cases, the Outstanding Universal Value resides not only in the harmonious relationship between architecture and nature, that also exists in the case of Kuelap, but also in their exceptional natural values.
At world and regional level, the Kuelap Archaeological Complex can be compared with other places that, according to the study of ICOMOS from 2005, correspond to the thematic categories of "Uninhabited Urban Settlement" and "Sacred Settlement", where the first category is better represented in the World Heritage List than the second. Nevertheless, the comparable places share a similar ecological environment to that of Kuelap, that of the tropical cloud forests in Mesoamerica and the Southeast of Asia.