Bonus archeaological site: Huacas de Moche

I had a spare day in Trujillo, since my onward bus left late in the evening, so went to see this site, which is not a World Heritage Site but is just as worthy of a visit as Chan Chan, if not more so. It comprises two large adobe pyramidal structures, the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna (‘huaca’ means temple or shrine, I’m sure you can work out ‘sol’ and ‘luna’ by yourselves).

Huaca del Sol and remains of city

Huaca del Sol and remains of city

These structures, along with the city they were once part of, were the capital of the Moche culture, which flourished between 100AD and 800AD, just prior to the Chimu (builders of Chan Chan, do keep up). Huaca del Sol was the larger of the two and is thought to have been the administrative centre of the city whilst the Huaca de la Luna was the religious and ceremonial one.  It is the latter that is visitable and undergoing excavation and restoration.

Huaca de la Luna at the bottom of its small mountain

Huaca de la Luna at the bottom of its small mountain

A big difference from Chan Chan is the decoration – here it is brightly painted.

Huaca de la Luna - detail of wall decoration

Huaca de la Luna – detail of wall decoration

There is one huge external wall, only discovered a few years ago, that has a glorious set of horizontal friezes, each depicting a different repeating figure or creature.

Huaca de la Luna - wall frieze

Huaca de la Luna – wall frieze

Internally, a lot of wall paintings are in excellent condition as a result of the way in which the builders regularly enlarged the structure: filling the rooms and courtyards with stacks of mud bricks and then building exactly the same thing, only slightly bigger, on top. The excavations allow you to see two or three layers simultaneously in places.

Huaca de la Luna - two successive phases of the structure

Huaca de la Luna – two successive phases of the structure

There is a very well presented museum close to the site, which shows some fine pottery amongst other artefacts and has intelligent multi-lingual interpretation. Unfortunately photography was not allowed but you can see some good pot pictures on the Wikipedia page for the Moche culture.

Huaca de la Luna - wall painting

Huaca de la Luna – wall painting

Huaca de la Luna is built at the bottom of a small pointy mountain and where they meet was the site of human sacrifices, a fact known both from the skeletons unearthed there and the depiction of the rituals in Moche art. It would seem that the bodies of victims (all adult males) were thrown from rocks and left out to rot.

Huaca de la Luna - illustration of human sacrifice

Huaca de la Luna – illustration of human sacrifice

This is a site you are only allowed to visit with a guide, but they do have English language tours which makes that less irritating. On my tour there were just the guide, me and a French couple plus a friendly site dog following us around – an example of an odd looking local breed, the Peruvian hairless dog, known to have been around in pre-Inca times.

Huaca de la Luna - Peruvian hairless dog

Huaca de la Luna – Peruvian hairless dog

As this is not a UNESCO listed site, there is no Lego model – please don’t complain.

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One Response to Bonus archeaological site: Huacas de Moche

  1. drsnyc says:

    not even of the hairless dog?
    I loved the photograph of the moon temple at the foot of its mountain (or at least until you explained what happens at the foot of the mountain)

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