Friday, 12 August 2011

Chiclayo 8th-9th July (Population around 592,500)

The “City of Friendship”, was founded by the Spanish missionaries in the 16th century and is 200km north of Lima.  Either by chance or through help from ‘above’ the crossroads city of Chiclayo has prospered ever since.  A bounty of important archaeology sites lies nearby.

I arrive late into Chiclayo (by bus) and was fortunate to be picked up and dropped off at a hotel by Moche Tours who will take me on an archaeological tour of the area in the morning.  The town and my hotel are full of university students on some sort of Summer School.  I was hardly in the room anyway so I wasn’t too concerned. 
Up early the next morning to meet my tour buddies for a day of visiting more ancient sites.  I will have a good handle of the Chimbú and Moche civilisations and the conquering Incas by the time I reach Cusco.
We meet our tour guide, a lovely young woman, Grace, who was an absolute delight and went to great pains to make sure I understood the mostly Spanish spoken tour. We begin at Sipán and after a drive through the countryside we arrive to a little oasis amongst dry sandy hills.

Sipán is the site of Huaca Rajada, a grave robbers-ridden set of pyramids virtually unknown before the late 1980’s.  After struggles with the community over control of the pyramids, archaeologists trained locals in excavation and research, and also employed some people to guard the site.  The most important person to be buried here was the Señor de Sipán, discovered in 1987, in an extravagant tomb including gold and silver decorated objects with stones and shells from the coast of Ecuador. The grave was uncovered by huaqueros (grave robbers).  When archaeologist Walter Alva realised the unusual influx of items on the black market, he headed up towards Chiclayo and eventually found the site.  He and his team later uncovered several pyramids (which happened to be more extravagant than the ones the huaqueros had found) and began excavating. In recent times hundreds of exquisite and priceless artefacts have been recovered from the black market.  At Sipán there is a replica of his burial site, but the most spectacular finds are in the Lambayeque museum. 

The weather is warming up and the sun is quite strong amongst the dusty ruins.  During our tour I have been chatting away with Sibonney, a Peruvian who speaks English very well.  She is with her mum (who doesn’t speak English) but is just as friendly.  We walk a short distance to visit the Museo.
Tomb Number 8

Inside Tomb Number 8 - note the pottery and other items for the after life

Soldiers are sacrificed so to protect their master in the next life

Tomb Number 7

Inside the tomb, note the Llama, obviously a pet and will go with its master to the next life

The most important find, Lord of Sipan

Inside his tomb, note the solider above him and in the left hand corner there is another skeleton to protect the grave.  His wife and mistresses were buried along with him.

Lord Sipan in his funeral finery

More tombs are being found

Me at the Lord of Sipan archaeological site
Museo de Sitio Huaca Rajada Sipán
This is a relatively new Museo just up the road from Sipán.  Here we watch an informative reproduction of life as it was during the building of Sipán pyramid.  Then we view artifacts, mummies, gods, jewellery and pottery of the Moche.  Another wonderful Museo.
Museo de Sitio Huaca Rajada Sipán, with Sibonney and her Mum walking towards the camera

Explaining the landscape around Sipan

Lord of Sipan with all the items from his tomb

Lord of Sipan

from Lord of Sipan's tomb

Moche God figure

Explaining burial clothing

How the soldiers looked when buried

Artifacts from the Tomb of Lord of Sipan
We all file back into the bus, everyone a little chattier and excited when we are told (at 1:30pm) we were heading to a Peruvian restaurant for lunch.  Around 2pm we arrive, starving and looking forward to a good lunch. I end up sitting with Sibonney, her mum, Vanessa (a German/Peruvian) and another young man whose job is to visit hotels, tourist operators etc and critique them, I want his job!! 
We are a merry little group, particularly when Sibonney’s mum orders beers for us all.  Lunch done, we board the bus and head to Túcume, about 30kms north of Lambayeque.

We arrive at Huacas Las Balsas and stroll through a working farm to arrive at the pyramid. The sun was low in the sky, a little cooler and the walk through the farm was just gorgeous.  Here we saw the carob tree, native to this area.  Túcume has 26 pyramids and formed the capital of the Sicán culture.  The ruins are a combination work between the Sicán and later the Chimú cultures with the base levels of buildings constructed by the Sicán and the top levels and outside walls added by the Chimú.  The area itself is very impressive in that it’s so vast and simply undiscovered.  These ruins are truly ruins, still being excavated.  In addition, much erosion has occurred as a result of rains from El Niño, hence the reason the area is not well preserved.  Discovered in 1989 by a Norwegian archaeologist, exploration of the temples began in 1991 but stopped after funding was cut.  They have recently restarted excavation of a different pyramid, which is thought to be the most important of the area.  Though there are 26 pyramids, the Huaca Larga tomb is the longest adobe structure in the world at over 700 metres long.  (Yet to become a tourist option).
Explaining the layout of Tucume

Where more tombs are being discovered

The working farm we walk through

with a donkey

with cattle

with pigs

A grove of Carob trees

The layout of Tucume tomb site

Explaining the construction

Some of the friezes

Explaining the ritual for sacrifices


The Tucume site

Explaining the friezes

the frieze from above

Explaining the tomb site of a woman

The woman's burial site, there is a child in the left-top hand corner
Again we head to the bus, back along the same road, driving past more canefields, farms and witnessing everyday life of farming Peruvians, really just delightful.  The bus now is getting a little rowdy as we are all more familiar with each other.  Our next stop is the world renowned Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán.

Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán, Lambayeque
The pride of northern Peru and a world class facility showcasing the dazzling finds of the Royal Tombs of Sipán, including that of the Lord of Sipán himself.  One of the best set up museums in the region, this three story building explains in great detail the excavation and history of the Señor de Sipán and is set up to explain the discoveries in the order they occurred. This impressive museum is truly well organised, interesting and very informative.  Everything was written in Spanish only so Grace relayed to me in English when I couldn’t quite get the gist of the information.  Again you could easily spend a day, however night was falling and soon we were back in the bus to head back to Chiclayo.
(No belongings or photos were allowed in this Museum, sorry no photos)

On the way back we stop at the renowned original store (1920’s) for our supply of the Lambayeque speciality ‘King Kong’ a type of biscuit called alfajor filled with a sweetened condensed milk cooked down called manjarblanco and topped with candied pineapple and peanuts or dulce de leche.   Very, very sweet, just what Peruvians tend to love.  I carried the packet around for a while trying to share, however in the end I opened up the packet and munched on it when I needed a sugar boast. Another Peruvian delicacy to add to my growing list of anything Peruvian.

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