Finely chiselled gold jewellery and puma-shaped, stirrup-spout earthenware bottles – the recent discoveries of the Moche culture unearthed at the Trujillo archaeological site and in the tomb at Lambayaque bear witness to the expert craft skills of the early Andean cities along the northern coast of Peru.
At the foot of the Andes, near the town of Trujillo, the huge expanse of sand was home to two gigantic temples, the Huaca de la Luna and the Huaca del Sol (Sun and Moon temples). The names are of Spanish origin rather than from the Pre-Incan civilisation that built them, the Moche or Mochicas, present from the 1stc. B.C.E to 800 years C.E.
Only the Huaca de la Luna digs are open to visitors. Every hundred years the Moche would built a new floor on top the previous one, because the adobe (bricks fired in the sun) constructions were eroded by El Niño. The well-preserved, colourful frescoes depict mythological creatures, including the all-powerful god, Ai-Apaec, as well as warriors and prisoners. This place of worship was the theatre of ceremonies and rituals, some of which included human sacrifices.
Tomb of the Lord of Sipán
At Lambayeque, the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán houses the treasures found in the largest Moche culture tomb, the Huaca Rajada. The discovery in 1987 of the tomb of the Lord of Sipán was worthy of a block-buster, adventure movie, featuring tomb raiders, police busts and a stubborn archaeologist… The tomb’s reconstitution depicts the 3C lord buried in the company of several other people, two llamas and a dog. Among the objects showcased in the red, pyramid-shaped edifice are sceptres and gold and turquoise jewellery, leaving the visitor in no doubt as the Moche’s know-how and skill in the field of jewellery making!
©Werner Forman Archive/Heritage Image/age fotostock
Chan Chan and Huanchaco
The Moche Trail also features Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in Pre-Hispanic America. It was the capital of the Chimor, whose heyday extended from the 12nd-15thc. and which followed on from the Moche. Some 30,000 people lived within its walls, which are engraved with motifs depicting the nearby sea, such as pelicans and fish. Your guide will very probably treat you to the shell-blowing ritual, creating a haunting sound that was used to alert the population to imminent danger.
All that now remains is to dive into the waves of the seaside resort of Huanchaco, where the surfers ride the breakers in the company of fishermen astride their traditional caballitos de totora (little reed horses) watercraft, against a concrete background that is light years from Pre-Incan Peru…