Today I made it to Karajia! Our first stop was at Caverna Quiocta, a large cave which was apparently used for various rituals and where there are a few bones and the odd skull to be seen. We walked back 600m into the cave through mud. There were stalactites, stalagmites and a few bats.
We then travelled on to the main attraction of the day. At Karajia we saw some sarcophagi on ledges in the cliff face. The mummy bundle would be taken up the cliff face (no-one knows how; the guides have so far suggested that they might have made a path then destoyed it later, simply climbed up the cliff, climbed down the cliff on a rope, or built wooden scaffolding, which seems to cover pretty much all of the possibilities with the exception of the use of flying saucers). They would build the body of the sarcophagus around the mummy in situ, first making a wigwam of wooden slats then covering it with mud/clay before painting it. The heads were made separately, brought to the cliff and then attached to the body.
When choosing a place to put sarcophagi, it was important that they face East (the rising Sun, which represented rebirth into the next world) rather than West (which represented darkness and death).
The skulls above some of the sarcophagi in the main group indicate that these were particularly important people. The skulls could have been of conquered enemies or friends of the deceased (I really should stop asking questions; I’m always tempted to laugh at the answers… friends or enemies it is then…..).
We saw a second group of sarcophagi with the heads attached to the middle of the body not the top. The suggestion here was that this might have been to show that this was an old person (i.e. hunched up). Looking at it, I rather suspect that it might have been an ad-hoc adjustment to take account of the fact that the niche in the cliff face wasn’t tall enough and heads were not going to fit on top of the bodies in the usual way…..
Here’s a photo showing both sets of sarcophagi and their placement in the cliff-face:
There was another sarcophagus we could just about see in a niche to the far left (directly to the left of the mummies with the heads at stomach level, past the first lot of vegetation).
Finally, we saw a niche with the remains of one sarcophagus and some broken pieces on the ground below where others had fallen off.