It’s not all about the Incas, you know! (a combined effort)

From Arequipa we went north. In fact 300 miles north of Lima to Trujillo and Chiclayo, just off the Pacific coast and so affected now and in the past by the infamous El Niño.
The reason to visit this barren land (except for vast tracts used for sugar plantations and rice fields..water coming from the Andes..see later) was to try to learn more about the pre Inca civilisations that inhabited these regions. We have deliberately skipped Nazca…not for us flying in unsafe planes…but moved to the area of one of the 6 known “ancient civilisations”.
We start with the Moche..known for their ceramics.. from about 100BC or possibly AD to 750AD onto the Lambayeque to 1000 AD then the Chimu (known more for their skills in metallurgy) to 1470AD when the the Incas arrived to conquer this area only shortly before the Spanish arrived in 1542. In fact it seems the Incas were only in power for about 100 yrs.
No writing has been discovered (unlike the scraps of Mayan discovered in Mexico) and so research is mainly concentrated on the funeral effects of the deceased..mainly the rich. Huge numbers of tombs, contained in massive adobe pyramids, called huacas, have been ransacked by the Spanish and others until modern times but so much has been preserved and is still being found.
We visited various sites and 4 wonderful museums. The understanding of these three major civilisations has clearly been much improved recently mainly due to new tomb discoveries in the last 20 years or so plus improved archaeological techniques including DNA testing. We think we grasped the outline of them but you all know how good is my Spanish.
We visited the Moche at Huaca de Sol..largest adobe building in SA even now when 1/3 has been washed away. Its sister pyramid, Huaca de Luna is more interesting and you can see how it was rebuilt several times for different rulers over six centuries. Some of the walls can be seen, still richly decorated with colourful friezes. The pots were fascinating and give a good idea of daily life back then. Incidentally the names sun and moon were given by the colonisers, we don’t know what the Moche called them. The sun temple was used for administrative functions, the moon temple for religious and ceremonial activities. The land in between was where the “normal” people had their homes.
The Lambayeque pyramids are just piles of mud bricks and so more time was spent in the museums, particularly a world class one containing the dead Lord of Sipan (it’s an Indiana Jones story) and a number of sacrificed relatives. The gold jewellery and other works of art are outstanding which is why archaeologists think he is a lord. He certainly would have been a dazzling, jingling presence! Think Tutenkhamun’s tomb! Sadly no photos allowed! He was buried with everything he would need in the next world – wives, concubines, guards, llamas and lots of provisions.
As to the Chimu, we visited Chan Chan built around 1300AD. It’s adobe again and is huge. The book says 36 sq kms. Nine royal compounds have been discovered and the remnants of gold, silver and ceramics. Most had already been stollen to melt down or sell on before the archaeologists were involved. Robberies from these sites go back to the seventeenth century. Each site had it’s resident hairless dog, descendants of those which were valued by earlier civilisations.
Finally we went to Ferranafe to visit The Lord of Sican, who was buried upside down. We had an excellent guide for this who explained that, lavish though this tomb was, it was outside the pyramid, so cannot be the main burial here. He showed us the site where excavations are continuing. Archaeologists believe a major tomb remains undisturbed but are challenged how to investigate without destroying the pyramid.
This is in an area of dry forest, it never rains and the carob trees are said to put down roots as deep as 35 metres in search of water. There’s a surprising amount of bird life even at midday and a desert fox crossed the track in front of us.
With imagination and help from the museums and guides you can almost be amongst it.
A few pictures cannot do our visits justice. Before we started our adventures in Central and South America..we had heard about the Aztec and Inca civilisations but they are only a tiny part of the fascinating history of this land.
If you are wondering why adobe buildings – it is because it very very rarely rains. Only when El Nino misbehaves. The available water was and is still collected from the Andes to the East by irrigation canals. Evidence has been found to date the earliest of these at only 5400 years.

E&OE ( We are only amateurs)

2 thoughts on “It’s not all about the Incas, you know! (a combined effort)

  1. You really should collate all these posts together and make a book out of them when you get back! Mike

  2. LO siento he estado fuera de la computador por una semana problemas! pero resueltos,,,, ahora parece que ya debes estar de regreso… pronto… cuidate y los veo en cuanto regresen x

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