Chiclayo and the Treasures of Sipán

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  ,
Saturday, September 1, 2007

The point of visiting Chiclayo was to appreciate a couple of the nearby archeological sites which northern Peru has plenty of. Starting late, we were relieved to find out that we just had time for one stop - the nearby village of Lambayeque which holds all the treasures from the Royal Tombs of Sipán in the museum.

For the last couple of days, the climate has been quite opressive. Fairly muggy with lots of sunshine and little breeze. The north of Peru near the coast is essentially desert, starkly beautiful but not the most comfortable in terms of travel. We felt we were lacking the energy to be dedicated tourists.

Lambayeque is easy to reach and has some beautiful old buildings, some literally falling down and others more well preserved with distinctive wooden balconies and wrought iron grill-work covering the windows. In fact, the balconies remind us of the chilly town of Potosí in Bolivia - the only difference is about 20 degrees celcius in temperature and 3500 metres in altitude.

The archeological displays in the Museo de las Tumbas Reales de Sipán were first discovered in 1987 by a Peruvian archologist digging up three crumbling adobe pyramids from the Moche culture (circa AD 1750). As the pyramids had been looted in the past by grave-robbers, he probably never expected to find the quantity and high quality of treasure now on display for the general public. The findings are considered some of the finest examples of pre-Columbian art - every archaeologists dream...

The museum is incredible and so worth the stop if you are anywhere nearby. There are recreations of the individual tombs, for example, one with a priest, sacrificed llama and a dog, and others with children, women and royals.

The high-quality photos of the opening of the tombs are incredible when you compare the damaged, decayed and oxidised precious metals in poor states, with the cleaned-up products today.

There treasures consist of pottery, golden and turquoise ornaments, breast-plates made of thousands of small sea-shell beads, silver sandals, gold nose decorations and much more. It is difficult to express the intricate nature and immense skill of the various pieces - unfortunately we weren´t allowed to take photos inside the museum, so here is an address for a site so that you can see what we were overawed by (sorry, weblink won´t work!).

Apart from the royal treasures, we were intrigued by a set of ceramics showing that the Moche had a down-to-earth side to when it came to the daily life of their people. The series of pots were arranged in order showing general human life stages, giving birth, breastfeeding, sex, old age and death.

The museum ended with a diorama of a royal court complete with life-size figures, some of which moved a little when the Moche music played. Kind of cheesey, but fascinating after all we had seen.

Another three hours on the bus to Piura rounded out the day.
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