Chullpas are tall funerary tombs constructed out of stone and clay, usually 2 to 4 meters high, but some may reach up to 12 meters. They were built during the 13th and 14th century by the inhabitants of the old Aymara kingdoms settled in the Bolivian Altiplano before the Incas, though there are similar constructions raised in Bolivia, Peru and northern Chile during the Inca period. Archeologists believe this structures were copied by the Inca after they occupied their territories.
Chullpas were built to bury tribe leaders and the noble, sometimes along with their extended families and even close friends. The bodies of the dead were placed in fetal position and wrapped in llama’s hide sacks, woven blankets or plaited straw, along with their possessions, food and offerings. Sometimes a small opening was made in the towers facing the east where it was believed the Sun was reborn by Mother Earth each day.
Although the corpses were not mummified, but in the dry environment created by the closed tomb, they survived for centuries. Grave robbers have long since removed their contents, although the towers are still well preserved and worth visiting. While chullpas are not unique to Sillustani and are found across the Altiplano, this site is considered the best and most preserved example of them.