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"If they knew we were here, they would've killed us already."
Barranca, on the Hovitos[src]

The Hovitos tribe.

The Hovitos, also known as Hovitos Indians, Hovito, or the Chachapoyan Tribe, were the descendants of the Chachapoyans that had hidden their fertility idol inside a Peruvian temple.

The Hovitos tribe lived in the mountainous jungles of Peru, and had their own language. Hovitos warriors armed themselves with blowguns equipped with poison-tipped darts in addition to spears and bow and arrows when hunting and fighting.


By the 20th century, the Chachapoyans were long gone from the world,[1] but their lineage survived in successor peoples such as the Hovitos,[2] and the group from whom Xomec was a descendant.[3] Both were sometimes referred to as Chachapoyans themselves.[3][4][5]

Within the vicinity of the millenia-old Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors,[6] located in a secluded valley in the jungle highlands of Chachapoyas, Peru,[2][4] the Hovitos developed a hunter-gatherer society led by a chieftain: the women would collect and cook plantains, roots and plants from the rainforest in addition to the monkey, fish, alligator and deer meat brought back by the men. Their community was built around the prestige of their hunters and warriors but they also held reverence for shamans and witch doctors who induced visions and practised medicine with a variety of substances.[2]

In 1893, A. Bandelier mapped the region, following in the footsteps of Juan Crisostomo Nieto's expedition fifty years earlier, and marked the presence of a "head hunter village".[7] If this was a Hovitos village, Bandelier may not have been aware that their settlements were impermanent, shifting location between fresh water sources on an almost annual basis to evade rival tribes and take advantage of new hunting grounds.[2]


A Hovitos village was a singular, wheel-shaped structure built from wood and possessed just one entrance/exit. A thatched roof covered the village with the exception of the central courtyard holding several stone-lined fire pits for cooking. The Hovitos slept in hammocks strung up between the support poles of the roof which were protected by a wooden stockade that circled the perimeter.[2]

Despite their seminomadic nature, the tribe was fiercely territorial, lethally so in the case of intrusion on land that they considered sacred such as the Chachapoyan Temple valley where their warriors' weekslong manhood rituals took place. War against other Hovitos villages was infrequent and usually provoked by other factors such as the accidental death of a chieftain, overhunting in the area or clashes with other hunting parties over game.[2]

The secluded Hovitos had had contact with Westerners in their past. Missionaries brought with them metal pots and utensils, while the occasional explorer had exchanged "shiny trinkets" in exchange for Hovitos guides to the rainforest but the Hovitos were wary of technology that they couldn't comprehend like firearms and electricals. At some point they came to usually expect gifts in return for their hospitality. However, village temperament was often dependent on their situation at the time. A flourishing village may have celebrated visitors with feasting but in times of war or when experiencing a famine, the Hovitos would treat outsiders as warmongerers or food thieves.[2]

Toward the end of the 19th century, rumors of an unspoiled Chachapoyan site began to pique archaeological interest.[4] An American explorer named McHenry, who had visited a number of ancient sites throughout the South American jungle, had excavated what was left of the Chachapoyan city of Tec'na'al. Although McHenry had cleared the ruins of the few remaining artifacts from the city's main temple pyramid, a gathering hall for the civilization's warrior elite was decorated with pictographs that contained directions of, and a crude map to, the hidden Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors where their priests had hidden away a solid gold idol representation of their most powerful deity as part of a soldier's rite of passage. McHenry noted the images but Tec'na'al was further damaged by a subsequent earthquake that struck the area.[2]

The Hovitos themselves were eventually approached by a French archaeologist who had his eyes on the Chachapoyan Temple. Early into his career, René Emile Belloq befriended the tribe and even established good ties with the son of a village chieftain. Nevertheless, he struggled to overcome their resistance to his being shown the sacred valley let alone the temple itself.[2]

Chachapoyan Fertility Idol

The Chachapoyan Fertility Idol.

Over the following years, however, Belloq became more successful at getting what he wanted and had taken to using self-professed "cunning methods" to acquire artifacts.[2] In 1935,[4] Forrestal, a competitor with whom Belloq had some association,[7] organized an expedition into Peru.[4] Working from McHenry's notes, Forrestal made a number of rewarding excavations of Chachapoyan sites in his pursuit of the Temple of the Warriors and its golden idol. During this time, Belloq hired Barranca and Satipo, a pair of local thieves to steal the map to the temple from one of Forrestal's campsites. His scheme didn't go as planned: the thieves did the job but simply kept the map for themselves. Barranca informed the Frenchman that the map was incomplete and thus functionally useless for finding more treasure. Despite the setback, Belloq was able to work out the general area that Forrestal was looking for the temple by calculating where Barranca and Satipo had gone hunting for the map.[2]

Hovitos witnessed Forrestal's discovery of the Chachapoyan Temple for himself but it was the structure's booby traps that claimed his life. Although he would only learn of Forrestal's fate later on,[8] Belloq knew that the interior was protected and that he'd need someone to brave its dangers once he could pinpoint the temple's location.[2]

Indiana Jones was a respected archaeological opponent of Forrestal who was surprised to learn of his disappearance considering the man's experience in Central and South America. With his own interest in acquiring the fertility idol for the National Museum, Jones had been keeping apprised of some of Forrestal's efforts to locate the temple.[2]

In 1936,[4] months after it became clear that Forrestal wasn't coming back,[2] the Princeton archaeologist's Chachapoyan finds – a collection of golden figurines – began showing up for sale on the antiquities market.[4] Jones family friend and National Museum curator Marcus Brody alerted Jones who took the opportunity to pick up Forrestal's trail.[2]

As Jones played his part, Belloq kept up his machinations. When Jones retrieved the rest of Forrestal's map, Belloq anonymously tipped off Barranca and Satipo, and the thieves attached themselves to Jones as guides into the temple valley.[2]

Belloq then returned to his Hovitos friends with grave news: outsiders were trying to violate the sacred grounds of their ancestors. With that, the Hovitos finally led Belloq into the valley.[2]

If the Hovitos had intended for Belloq to go no further, it no longer mattered. The sound of a plane overhead indicated that Indiana Jones had arrived and a gunshot about an hour later led the group towards the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors. Along the way, they encountered Barranca fleeing from the opposite direction who told the Hovitos where the rest of his party was only for the tribe to kill him[2] with their poisonous darts[5] for his incursion onto their land.[2]

Jones and Satipo were already inside the temple when Belloq and the Hovitos arrived. Although Satipo would meet the same end as Forrestal, Jones successfully claimed the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol and evaded a giant rolling boulder that was released to prevent his escape. He landed at the feet of Belloq and the Hovitos waiting outside and the dart-riddled body of Barranca was dumped in front of him. The Frenchman reclaimed the idol from Jones then raised it aloft to the Hovitos who dropped to their knees in reverence of the golden goddess which provided Jones the opportunity to escape. The Hovitos gave chase but Jones made his getaway in Jock Lindsey's plane and the distraction allowed Belloq to steal the relic for himself.[9]

As Indiana Jones predicted,[9] Belloq offloaded the idol in Marrakesh. Later that year, Jones re-claimed the artifact and made his way home. By that time, the Hovitos' fellow Chachapoyan descendant Xomec had formed a partnership with Nazi agent Ilsa Toht based around the recovery the golden idol: using the relic to unite the indigenous South American tribes under the leadership of Xomec, he would repay Ilsa's co-operation by causing unrest that would disrupt US interests in the continent should the country ever move against German expansion.[3]

Xomec enlisted the help of the Hovitos and was joined by a pair of blowgun-wielding warriors to raid the National Museum function celebrating the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol's arrival that took place on the top floor of a 23-storey Manhattan skyrise. Although the two Hovitos were killed in the escape, Xomec successfully captured the artifact and headed to Brazil with Ilsa.[3]

As the scheme had brought Ilsa into contact with Indiana Jones, who she blamed for the death of her brother, the Nazi took the opportunity for vengeance by baiting the archaeologist into following them to a disused 19th century opera house in the Brazilian jungle. There, the Hovitos forces ambushed him and knocked him unconscious. Neither Xomec nor Ilsa remained to see Jones' planned execution meted out and his eventual escape allowed him to intercept their flight to meet with the gathered tribes just as the seaplane was taking off. He defeated them both and returned the idol to the museum.[3]

Years later, Jones returned to the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors – its entrance blocked by the rolling boulder that Jones had triggered the release of during his previous visit – to further explore the site. During his search, he claimed a second idol but went undisturbed by the Hovitos.[10]

Behind the scenes[]

Making r 14

Hovitos concept art.

The Hovitos first appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark, an invention for the film.[9]

In earlier drafts of the film's script, written by Lawrence Kasdan, the Hovitos were originally going to be the main antagonists of the prologue sequence as René Belloq's presence there was a later addition to the story. The Hovitos, "the tribe of the poison spear", independently kill SatipoBarranca having been killed by Indiana Jones in this version – before trying to finish off Jones for having entered their sacred place.

When Indiana Jones is running away from the Hovitos tribe after Belloq robs Indiana the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol, in one scene they are seen only a few meters behind Jones, but in the next scene, they are at much farther away.[9]

During the early development of the fourth film, Frank Darabont's script Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods featured a tribe of Hovitos led by German doctor Felix Von Grauen, who would rescue Indy and Marion Ravenwood in the Peruvian jungle only to later betray them.[11]

In the LEGO Indiana Jones commercial of the toy set "Temple Escape", the Hovitos were included at the end of it, angry at Jones getting away but were not part the actual set itself. They were, however, represented in both LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures and its sequel.


Non-canon appearances[]


Notes and references[]

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