Peru Trip #4 – El Brujo, Huaca de La Luna, Chan Chan

Huaca Prieta - 2500BCE Pyramid
Another long day with another punishing schedule, but SO worth it. Picked up from the hotel at 7am for a 90min journey to El Brujo, to visit the very celebrated Senora de Cao – the only Moche Queen discovered so far, clearly as powerful as the Lords of Sipan in her day (c250CE) with her own pyramid with all the usual Moche accompaniments.
But El Brujo is more than just her pyramid – here, too, is Huaca Prieta, the as yet unexcavated 2500BCE pyramid of the pre-ceramic originators of the El Brujo complex, followed later by the Cupisnique, and later still by the Moche, and the Chimu, and even a Dominican Church built by the Spanish. To this day, the local ‘brujo’s, (shamen) still practice their folk magic at the Moche Huaca El Brujo (named after them) facing the Huaca de Cao, the only part of the site so far excavated, opened to the public with an impressive museum, in April 2010.

There’s been 5000 years continuous sacred occupation of this same site,
overlooking the crashing waves of the pacific. A truly stunning site,
with my first sight of how the Moche ceramic style appears in
high-relief on the walls of their temples! In this warrior culture,
where soldiers paired off for ritual battle, the loser was stripped
naked, chained, and led to the top of the pyramid to be beheaded, where
his blood would sanctify the martial rite, and be presented in the
ceremonial cup to the Lord (or in this case Lady) to be drunk in
celebration of the life-death cycle epitomised in their primary deity,
Ai-Apaec: the beheading lord of death and creation.

Senora de Cao prisoners

Wall paintings at Huaca de Cao

But I was yet in for a real treat. For our next stop was Huaca de La
Luna. Two huge pyramids with a small town in between them, one slightly
larger than the other, named by the Spanish as the Temple of the Sun,
and then looted and destroyed, the other, smaller, named Temple of the
Moon, left alone for the archaeologists to discover, as late as 1990,
that there are five temples here, one built literally on top of the
other, like the top halves of Russian dolls. It seems after about a
century a particular ruling elite would simply completely renew, burying
the previous set wholesale by building directly on top of their temple –
a new temple for the new ruling elite, but all in essentially the same
cultural style – five times over, here at Huaca de La Luna. What has
been revealed is just simply stunning! Here is taster – check out Flickr for the MANY photos I took of this site.


The wall of the fifth temple with the sacred corner sanctuary

Glimpse of the fourth temple behind the walls of the 5th

This entire complex was just truly stunning and left me quite
gob-smacked. My guide told me, as we stood a little away from three
suited gentlemen in heated discussion, that they were the principal
archaeologists who had discovered and were managing the excavation of
the site, debating the need for and likelihood of getting substantial
new funding to continue the work. This is already a World Memorial Fund
site, but needs more help from the EU, the US, etc etc.

Last of the day, then, after a delightful seafood lunch overlooking the
waves crashing onto the pacific shore at Huanchaco Beach, nearby, was
the rather disappointing mud walls of the Chan Chan archaeological site.
This vast Chimu city, 14km square, was simply abandoned and looted
when the Spanish arrived, and not covered up like the Moche pyramids
that preceded it. No paint survives, therefore, and the reliefs are
barely distinguishable. What is on show is reconstructed, and
unremittingly brown. Alone, on a day without the glories of the Moche,
it might have been impressive, if only for its size and extent.

A view at Chan Chan

And then the flight from Trujillo back to Lima, a late dinner at the
Haiti Cafe near my hotel, and a very very welcome bed, after writing

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