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North of Peru.
Bloodthirsty mochicas, builders chimu and wise incas
Photo-report by D. Nazarov
» South of Peru » North of Peru

Moche or mochica is one of the most important civilisation in Peru that flourished between the I and VII centuries A.D. The most valuable monument of that epoch is considered to be the tomb of the so called señor Sipan (Tumbas reales de Sipan). As per its significance for historical science, the discovery of this burial place is compared by the Peruvians to the discovery of Tutankhamun tomb.

Unfortunately, in Sipan, (similar to many other places in Peru) it was huaqueros (treasure hunters) who started excavations. But even what left after them, struck the imagination of archaeologists. Fortunately huaqueros could not find the tomb of Señor de Sipan himself. And there was something to make money more than 1.5 thousand objects, including golden jewelery, things made of stone, sea-shells, magnificent ceramics.

Mochica ceramics Mochica ceramics, to tell the truth, deserves special mentioning. It reflects the features of face, temper and character of the person so accurately, that their vessels-heads look just like live ones. I think they tried to achieve the absolute portrait resemblance.

Archaeological treasures found at the burial ground of Sipan (and also in some other, less significant tombs) was sufficient for practically all museums of Peru. There are two archaeological museums in the town of Lambayeque, not far where excavations were done; one of them is dedicated purely to the tomb of señor Sipan. It is as difficult to come to that museum as to get the Armoury all the things are taken at the entrance, they let you pass through metal finders, the doors are automatic only the attendant can open it for entry and exit. And of course, it is prohibited to take pictures there. The Peruvians say, that almost all exhibits in the museum are authentic. If it is true, then really, the golden crowns weighing several kilograms should be very thoroughly protected.

Señor Sipan Museum Señor Sipan Museum in Lambayeque is very interesting and rich. They say it is within the first ten of the best in the world museums. I believe it, as the Museum is worthy. We spent a couple of hours there and did not notice the time to pass. The tomb reconstruction is impressive, consisting of several layers of jewelery, rich clothing, and, of course, human sacrifies. Señor Spana was buried with 8 needed to him in the other world people wives, priests, warriors and even a little boy.

   As long as it was prohibited to take pictures in the Museum, I enclose a photo, taken in the Museum of Nation (Museo de la Nacion) in Lima, very interesting and informative too.

Pyramids also remained after the mochicas. Those, who used to be in Mexico, at Teotihuacan, should not make comparison. The pyramid of the Moon and Sun of the coastal area of the Northern Peru are absolutely different from those of Mexico. And they were called, they say, by archaeologists who worked at Teotihuacan for old times' sake.

Ancient Peruvians had great difficulties with building materials. There was not enough timber and stones. That is why they mainly used short-lived material for construction clay bricks adobe which, of course, could not withstand the test by time and nature. Because of this, the pyramids do not look so integral and impressive as the Mexican ones, and very often they resemble shapeless hills, and you have to use your imagination to see the work of art made by human hands.

 The pyramid of the Sun is considered to be the biggest in this region (I do not give the height as the information differs in various sources). The entry to it is closed, as it has not yet been completely restored it was considerably damaged by the above mentioned huaqueros in search of gold. And the government does not practically give money for archaeological works, and almost all historical objects survive at the expense of donors. This is, by the way, also a very big difference from Mexico, where any, even the smallest pyramid, is put to order, and, if possible, restored.

Picture of the world
The entry to the pyramid of the Moon is open for tourists. Its very well preserved for fifteen hundred years frescos and picturesque bas-reliefs are amazing (the mochicos used only natural dyes). But what is more striking is the historic information about blood-thirstiness of the local population.

Recently the Pyramid of the Moon has received a Spanish Queen Sofia Award (Premio de Reina Sofia), which is awarded for preservation and restoration of the monuments of the past. It is planned to use the received money to build the cultural complex with museum, research center, storage, laboratories and etc.

It is on this pyramid, that was used a ceremonial center, human sacrifies were made. Prisoners (and it was the prisoners who were sacrificed) were beheaded, then they were quartered, their blood was collected into sacrificial vessels, then they added seeds of some plant that did not remain till now to avoid blood coagulation, and then in the presence of cheerful audience, the priests drank that appetizing drink.

Mutilated bodies of the sacrificed enemies were thrown at the same place at the foot of the pyramid, and probably, did not disturb anybody. Modern researches of DNA determined that the victims were the same mochicas, but from other tribes, who were imprisoned during religious wars or struggle for power.

The end of the mochica civilisation was put by nothing else but notorious Niño that caused the ecological catastrophe.

Clay city Chan Chan The mochicas were replaced in the region by Chimu (VIII XV centuries), that built a magnificent (the biggest in America) clay city Chan Chan. Clay bricks, of course, are not the most durable material, and additionally, heavy showers in the XII century (might be connected with Niño too) washed away the structures that used to occupy the area of 20 square kilometers, but seeing the palace ruins, which are open for tourists, one can judge about the greatness and beauty of Chimu architecture. Wide ceremonial squares, labyrinth of corridors, where one can get lost without signs, that charm most of all.

Clay lace Fish in Chan Chan Bas-relief in Chan Chan

In XIV-XV centuries the Chimus were ousted by the Incas, not so much having conquered them, but having tamed them: chief Tupac Yupanqui, getting victory over Minchancaman - last ruler of Chimu, took him to Cuzco and married to his daughter. And his son was made a ruler instead of the father, and made him pay the tribute.

Except for the ruins of Chan Chan, there remained a few ceremonial pyramids of Chimu civilisation. The Pyramid of the Dragon preserved magnificent anthropomorphous and zoomorphous bas-reliefs, including a snake in shape of a rainbow, hence the name of the pyramid Arco Iris.

Arco Iris Pyramid of the Dragon Pyramid of the Dragon bas-relief
Cactus flower And on the Esmeralda Pyramid our best find was a marvelous double flower of cactus.

Valley of pyramids Tumi Not far from Lambayeque there is a valley of pyramids. Almost twenty structures were discovered in this area, created by carriers of the Lambayeque culture, or Sican culture. Little has remained out the pyramids, and the place is the most important by the fact that among other excellent metal objects, the well known Tumi was discovered in Sican. It is an ancient ceremonial knife, that was used, including, for trepanation of the skull. Its replicas, made both of metal and wood, are sold at all artesania (folk craft) markets in Peru.

Ancient walls of Sechin
Sechin is the oldest in the coastal area of Peru ceremonial complex. It is 3500 years old. It is the only one in the region where they used granite for construction. Stone bas-reliefs are the most amazing things in Sechin. They depict not only the warriors in full gear, but also separate parts of the body (heads, arms, legs) and even the inner organs. Everything is very realistic and exact. Till now the scientists cannot come to one opinion, what was the purpose of those. Either an anatomy training aid or image of bloody human sacrifices. But in any case ,the residents of Sechin knew anatomy very well.

In all archaeological centers you can see a hairless Peruvian dog viringo. It is a sort of guard of the antiquity. These are very ancient dogs, in fact, this is the only local breed and they are kept at pyramids as a talisman. You don't always have a chance to pat this dog, because they are rather wild. Unlike other pedigrees that keep close to populated areas, these proud creatures will never approach a stranger and, moreover, will not allow to stroke them.

Hairless Peruvian dog Temple dog Bored by tourists

The dog turned out to be rough and very hot. The temperature of their body is higher than in other breeds, and local population use them instead of a hot water bottle, when they have pain somewhere.

Caballitos de totora - single-seat boats made of cane The last stop was at Huanchaco settlement at the ocean coast. It is famous for its caballitos de totora - single-seat boats made of cane. They were used for fishing by both mochicos and chimus and all other Indians.

Friends A huge German shepherd dog and a tiny red rabbit peacefully live in the yard at the hotel in Huanchaco. The rabbit always follows the dog, probably, it feels safe in such a company and even periodically climbs on the head of the patient dog and settles itself between the ears. Unfortunately, this episode was only taken by movie camera.

And I can't but say a few words about local population. The people are excellent there, everybody is very kindhearted. Because of almost no road signs and even mistakes in the guidebooks, we often had to stop and ask for the road. First of all, we were pleased by good knowledge of their place of interest by aboriginals, none of them said that he did not know where to go, and secondly, none of them directed us in the wrong way, which, unfortunately, happens at this continent.

Alas, there is always a but. Enormous quantity of rubbish everywhere in cities and especially in the country distressed us.

But that was a small fly in the ointment, that, fortunately, did not spoil our general impression of this excellent trip around Peru.

» South of Peru. Desert Nazca, nature reserve Paracas and extreme in dunes.

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