In 1987 the world's media announced a major archaeological discovery, which was called "El Seņor de Sipan" (The Lord of Sipan) located in the Lambayeque Region of the Province of Chiclayo, District of Zaņa, Annex of Sipan, Township of Huaca Rajada.
The discovery of "El Seņor de Sipan" was an exceptional event, during which shards of pottery, huacos, burial urns, tombs and excavations appeared in a very haphazard fashion, as well as some rooms and storehouses that were used by the first inhabitants of the city. The important thing though, was that this place had been sealed and was still untouched.
"El Seņor de Sipan" was the ethnic prince of the middle valley of Lambayeque, in the period from the 2nd to the 3rd century AD (250 AD approximately). He was invested with triple authority: military, religious and civil. He exercised this authority from the Governing Complex, which allowed him to scan everything in view, including the sea, the mountains, the desert, the valley and his enormous farmlands.
In the valley we will find a series of mounds that are the remains left by the thousand-year-old Moche civilization that once housed fifteen thousand people, among potters, goldsmiths, weavers and builders whose position might have been slightly higher than that of the almost 100,000 farmers and farm hands who inhabited the area. All these people lived in a complex society, with multiple social strata: producers, administrators, clergy, military men, planners and all else necessary for a complex society, a city and the whole system needed to satisfy ongoing needs.
"El Seņor de Sipan", when discovered, was accompanied with his ceremonial ceramic utensils (which he was to use as an offering to his god when he met him in the hereafter), and was buried with his head pointing exactly south, at the precise mid-point of a square formed by the corpses of four members of his court, each aligned with one point of the compass. Very close by were a dog and three young (18-21 years of age) women, who were apparently his concubines; moreover, he had his food with him and his personal priest; his coffin was of cane woven with vegetable fiber (nails were unknown at the time), and held together with copper clasps. Over the coffin were laid several strata of fabrics, grass mats and finely woven cloth, shedding some light on the elaborate complexity of the burial ceremony; The ornamentation he was wearing when found was of a highly diverse nature, among others: two coxal protectors (one of gold and the other of silver), on his chest a necklace made from ten gold and ten silver "peanuts", at his waist he had golden rattles, in his right hand a ceremonial scepter with a silver handle and at its end a truncated pyramid of gold, and under his body had been placed his half-moon upper diadem, made of gold and consisting of a 62 cm by 42 cm sheet. This symbol had previously only been seen in Moche iconography, and had always been linked to the highest investiture of the governing class. Likewise, eleven pectoral plates were found distributed successively over the chest, the legs and under the skeleton; other objects found included eye protectors, a nose protector, a chin-guard, ear covers made of turquoises and gold, all of the foregoing comprising the funereal finery of "El Seņor de Sipan". When he had been duly buried, seventeen locust-tree beams were laid over the grave, that was 5 meters square; over the aforesaid beams was placed a guard figure with amputated legs, symbolizing his inability to escape the duty of remaining at his guard post.
To display its marvelous cultural legacy, revealing the degree of complexity and development attained by this society, a museum was built in the city of Lambayeque, inspired by Moche architecture. Within this museum may be found the remains of "El Seņor de Sipan", as well as items in ceramics and gold in modern, hermetically sealed display cases. A complete Moche period village has been recreated within the museum as well, including its ceramic and weaving techniques.
In the fourth century AD, the Moche people buried one of their greatest warlords. He was buried with his head pointing south, his nose and ears covered with gold relics and his feet clad in silver. To accompany him, his subjects sacrificed women, children and llamas, while the finest warriors of the era accompanied their overlord on his voyage to the Afterlife.
More than 1,700 years later, the warlord made his triumphant reappearance. Not that he did it by himself: in 1987, a team of archaeologists led by Walter Alva found the skeleton of the Lord of Sipan 29 km from the city of Chiclayo in the department of Lambayeque, on Peru's north coast. It was hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds of the century. The structure found in Sipan is made up of three pyramids, one of which contained the warrior-priest accompanied by the bodies of his followers.
But more than just the spectacular nature of the discovery and the sterling quality of the relics, the Royal Tombs of the Lord of Sipan have enabled historians and archaeologists to piece together much of the lost history of an impressive civilization which dominated most of northern Peru for centuries: the Moche.
After spending years on exhibit in the Americas, Europe and Asia, the treasures of the Lord of Sipan are now on display at the Museum "Tumbas Reales de Sipan" in the town of Lambayeque. This will ensure the ancient noble will continue to unravel his mysteries for future generations.
The builders of the citadel of "El Seņor de Sipan" were the Moche or Mochicas , who developed originally in the present La Libertad Region, to spread later to the valleys of Lambayeque, Chicama, Moche, Viru, Santa and Nepeņa, over a 6,500 km2 area, including some towns in Cajamarca and Ancash, over a period extending from around 200 BC to the seventh century of our era. Within this period there are five (5) consecutive development stages.
The most important center of this civilization was in the Moche Valley, very close to the present-day city of Trujillo, where the most important buildings are located, such as the "Huacas del Sol y de La Luna" and "El Brujo", which must have formed an important part of the government administration.
The Mochicas were a very warlike people who took their enemies as slaves, having a marked social caste system and a well-organized society able to develop a great civilization based on artificial irrigation of the coastal valleys. By the use of canals they were able to irrigate more soil than modern farming methods in the area. Their major monuments are a testimony to their degree of organization. They developed almost all the metallurgy technology and trade routes used later, and their main product was a very special realistically expressive style in ceramics.
This culture started to decline around 600 AD, until it totally disappeared in 750 AD, to make way for newer cultures with higher quality ceramic products such as those of Lambayeque, in the valley of the same name, and of Chimu, in the Moche valley, which served as the basis for the creation of the Inca Empire.
Climate: The region enjoys a benevolent climate, with average annual temperatures of 20°C, maximum temperatures over 30°C in summer and a minimum of 15°C in winter.
Access: The tombs of the Lord of Sipan lie 35 km southeast of the city of Chiclayo (40 minutes) and the Brüning Archaeological Museum, in the province of Lambayeque, 12 km (10 minutes) away.
The northern coast of our country has witnessed various cultures: Mochica, Sipan, Chimu, Inca, and Spanish. With the years, some of their traces were covered and their secrets guarded by myth and by silence. But little by little, they have been dug up and revealed to our eyes.
The great lords of Lambayeque sowed the earth with their tombs. Which is why they have languished in oblivion. The first of them - we know about him thanks to oral tradition - was Naylamp.
And he was later succeeded by other monarchs. His citadels, pyramids, temples and treasures remained under the mud but thanks to the work of researchers we now know more about these cultures.
To be precise, Huaca Rajada, south of Chiclayo (capital of the Department of Lambayeque) and 420 miles from Lima, harbored the personage called Lord of Sipan. This center seems to have been a religious one, as the personage was apparently a curaca or a priest, judging by the remains found beside him. The news of his discovery went around the world because of its archaeological significance and the magnificence and quantity of objects found.
It is the most important in pre-Columbian America and is universally compared with Tutankahamen. But above all it permits us to know more details of the cultures of the north of Peru.
Work began on April 6, 1987. Specifically, on an adobe platform sited before two large structures like truncated pyramids over 95 feet high, close to the village of Sipan in the Lambayeque valley. Exhaustive archaeological work led months later to the discovery of the intact funeral chamber of an important ethnic lord of the region. It was already sensed that this was something special.
DISCOVERY AND RESTORATION
Discovery took place on July 26. It was the moment when the archeologists, headed by Walter Alva, discovered they were faced with the sumptuous tomb of a top-ranking man in the hierarchy of the Mochica culture of Ancient Peru. After cleaning the wooden roof that covered the tomb and removing the first sediments that covered the interior of what evidently was a sarcophagus, there appeared the figure in miniature on the principal earring of the Lord - a premonitory announcement of what the tomb would be, because that object apparently represented the Lord, flanked by his two warriors.
For the first time, the splendid magnificence of a governor of ancient Peru was revealed. Eight skeletons of servants, concubines and warriors surrounded the wood coffin containing the remains of the chief occupants, with its virtual treasure of ornaments, headdresses, emblems and insignia of gold, silver, copper gilt and semi-precious stones. These objects constituted the symbols of power of the Lord of Sipan who died 1,700 years ago, and are a real compendium of exquisite art, metallurgical techniques and inestimable historical Information for reconstructing the level of development, organization, cultural relations and religious thought of the Mochicas, one of the most important American cultures that rose based on the irrigation of the desert coast of Peru.
Once excavation began, beneath the ruins and irregular perforations were found some vessels, ornaments and an impressive ceremonial scepter in cast copper topped by a miniaturist representation of a complex Mochica palace, decorated with warrior symbols and an icon of profound, enigmatic symbology: a supernatural divinity copulates with a woman on the crescent Moon, representing perhaps the myth of the creation or fertilization of the Earth?.
Then at the central level of the platform there was registered, intact, a small chamber containing as offerings: 1,150 pottery vessels, remains of food, four copper crowns, llama bones and the skeleton of a man, placed there to accompany someone of very high rank: the Lord (Siec, in the Mochica language).
The Funeral Chamber: After the systematic cleaning of the central section of the platform, a fill-in of earth delimited by adobes cut from the building was identified. Progressively removing this fill-in, at ten feet down, there was found the deteriorated skeleton of a young man bearing a copper shield on his forearm and the remains of a gilded helmet on the cranium, the typical, sober apparel of a Mochica soldier, whose amputated feet symbolize the obligation to remain at his guard post for ever. Some 20 inches further down were the parallel traces of 17 disintegrated guards, forming the roof and sealing the chamber measuring seventeen by seventeen feet.
In the center were revealed eight oxidized copper strips, the bindings of the first wood coffin known to American archeology. To penetrate it required arduous surgery as the contents were found in layers compressed by the mass of fill-in and earth falls that covered the chamber. Amidst the sediments there appeared the perfect, determined face in a miniature sculpture 6.2 millimeters high that represents a Mochica warrior chief dressed in a turquoise tunic, a half moon crown on its head and a mobile ornament in the nose. Tiny owl heads hung from the neck, held by gold thread, and rattles from its belt.
&The display of realism even showed the tensed leg muscles; the right arm held a fighting mace and the left forearm had only just released the diminutive shield. This delicate human effigy corresponded to the central part of a discoid earplug, bordered by little gold spheres. At either side of our personage were found two warriors in profile, worked in small mosaics of turquoises and gold.
The cleaning of the first layer showed two pairs of gold and turquoise earplugs, at either side of the cranium. Three pointed lances and copper discs rested on the central part, where an ingot of solid gold shone once again.
The Lord was shod in sandals of copper. Around the funeral bundle, originally wrapped in cotton robes, were found many spondylus shells brought from the Gulf of Guayaquil, highly valued in the rites of Ancient Peru. Covering the bones of the face were a pair of gold eyes, a nose and a protector of the same metal for the chin, to cover the face up to the cheeks as a kind of helmet. Two nose clips of gold were found close to the face and on a box of the same metal reposed the cranium.
Thousands of tiny cylindrical beads of red, white and orange conches formed a total of 11 pectorals laid successively on the breast, the legs or under the skeleton. Various disintegrated headdresses formed a sort of fan of feathers with copper handles. Hundreds of minute turquoise beads made up the elegant bracelets of the Lord.
On the breast were two rows of a total of 20 metal peanuts; ten on the right side were of gold, and the other half were of silver. This first sign of symbolic duality or bi-partition, turned out to be an important constant in the ritual objects of the burial; thus, a gold ingot rested on the right hand and another similar one, of copper, on the left hand. The right held, besides, the most valuable symbol of power andearthly hierarchy: a kind of scepter and knife crowned with a handsome inverted pyramid of gold with reliefs in which a richly attired warrior took a prisoner by the hair and with the other hand aimed a mace at his face. This representation refers to the capture, torture and sacrifice of the prisoners of Mochica warriors. In the left hand there was a silver knife with the same image in miniature sculpture.
Level with the neck was found a necklace with 71 gold spheres, and on the breast a knife, always of gold, towards the right and another of silver towards the left: duality and equilibrium that symbolized perhaps the west and the east, day and night, the pure and the impure, life and death, the Sun and the Moon, the positive and the negative, and everythingthat while being opposite turns out to be complementary. Beneath the body there appeared in all its splendor a great half-moon diadem of gold; a sheet 17 inches wide and 25 inches long that only appears in Mochica iconography and is related to personages of the highest investiture who garnered honors and offerings. Behind a wood board were deposited two semicircular rattles of gold, finely worked in relief with the figure of one of the most notable Mochica deities, The Alcapae or "beheader", bearing in his hands a knife and a human head.
As may be imagined, other objects were withdrawn from underneath the Lord who - it is speculated - died between 36 and 40 years of age. Surrounding the coffin were discovered the remains of two women under 20 years of age, probably the wives or favorites of their master. One of them wore a copper crown and her head pointed to the west while the other one was in a totally opposite position. Next to them were found the skeletons of two men facing upwards. A shield, copper headdress and a war mace showed one of them to be a warrior. The other was in inverted position, with a pectoral of shells and, beside his legs, the skeleton of a dog. Would it have been the Lord's hound? Finally, two llamas were the first sacrifices placed in the chamber.
On the three sides were found five niches with 212 clay vessels with food offerings, mostly carved jars representing seated personages and some warriors, in an ordered array suggesting a ritual setting.
For two years, Sipan has traveled to the principal North American museums. It has been seen by some four million people, has increased our knowledge of the aboriginal cultures of America and has triggered a revaluation of all that the indigenous world means. With Sipan, the Mochica culture has begun, for North Americans, to rank with the Incas, the Mayas and the Aztecs.
The Mochicas' pottery and gold work can be estimated as classic art. A Moche ceramic is a perfect work. The Mochica culture developed between the 1st and 4th centuries of our era along the entire Peruvian coast. It was a very vital culture, with an exquisite sensuality not observed in other cultures. This expressive force was nothing less than the reflection of the extraordinary vitality of the Mochica people.
Now, for the rest of the year, the Lord of Sipan is being exhibited in the Museo de la Nacion. Don't think twice about it; visit him and be dazzled.
ROYAL TOMBS OF SIPAN MUSEUM
As of August 9th, 2003, Peru, Lambayeque and Chiclayo has a new museum. The Royal Tombs of Sipan exhibits the most important archaeological remains of the Mochica Culture, in an exceptional exhibition that combines maximum scientific accuracy, security and enjoyment to show the jewels, emblems and ornaments found in 1987 in the tomb of a Mochica government leader called the Lord of Sipan.
The Museum Real Tombs of Sipan has its origin in a project of organized archaeological rescue in April of 1987, when a small team of Peruvian archaeologists we assumed the responsibility to save and to investigate the archaeological sanctuary of Sipan, as opposed to its violent sacking and destruction, a tragic destiny that permanently threatens and affects the cultural patrimony of Peru.
Our intervention began under the difficult circumstances of a police intervention and with limited resources offered by institutions and identified companies the culture. Few months later, the exhaustive work of field allowed to the scientific recovery of the call Tomb of Lord of Sipan, the first intact funeral context of a governor of the Old Peru that showed the today world all the magnificence and an invaluable information on the development level, organization and religious thought of the Moche or Mochicas, one of the most important cultures pre Incas.
From the first moments, our archaeological rescue was the delicate problem as opposed to investigate, to conserve, to recover and to think about the definitive destiny of the valuable discovery that immediately was considered between the great events of American archaeology.
After the impact and enthusiasm of the discovery the responsibility came to preserve this important cultural treasure of Peru for the future generations, as well as to suitably present / display it with dignity and to the world, is to say to conserve and to recover each one of the archaeological pieces affected by the time and to plan previously its location and definitive destiny.
The first step that meant to develop to optimal techniques of registry and recovery in the field, was solved by our equipment. The second task forced to us to ask for the support of the international community to assume the restoration of the metallic objects front to our limitations of laboratories and resources. The support of Germany and Spain allowed to save the urgency of these works and to install a laboratory in our country. That evidently most difficult of all the responsibilities as opposed to the magnitude of the archaeological discovery it constituted his conservation and definitive presentation in a worthy atmosphere that reunites to the best specifications and museum qualities.
From the beginnings we thought about an own space that it was maturing and progressing from the project of an additional room to the Brüning Museum, in Lambayeque, to an annexed building, finally to force us to the challenge of a great building which it combines an original architecture and of Peruvian personality with a museum that exposes didactically with all securities and one of the most important pages of the history of ancient Peru, necessary to sustain the identity of the Peruvians of today, to promote our cultural inheritance and to become a center of cultural and tourist interest that impels the development of the region.
The challenge which we assumed with the generous participation of architect Celso Prado was to conceive a majestic Museum like our past, creative, safe and functional to conserve and to present / display with dignity the Royal Tombs of Sipan understood like a unit of ornaments, emblems and offerings that accompanied to our old governors in their trip the eternity.
This museum would have to thus constitute in a Museum-Mausoleum and sanctuary of our culture. The international institutions, companies, organisms and friends are many who have supported to us. Thanks to them we have reunited the basic resources to initiate this work that was endorsed by the Peruvian Government.
The innumerable difficulties were overcome by the unshakeable will of our equipment. The Museum is finished and, to name of all we, only it fits the immense satisfaction of having fulfilled in front of to the country and the memory of our ancestors.
The modern and majestic of the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum opened with a dramatization of the life of the Lord of Sipan and his royal court. The three-floor center was built with a US$5 million investment. It is formed in a pyramid, inspired by the Mochica sanctuaries, to thus bring together the past, present and future of the Lambayeque identity.
All the exhibits are original pieces and each has been carefully cleaned and restored to the minutest detail. The leading representative of the Mochica culture, the Lord of Sipan, considered to be the most important governor of ancient Peru some 1700 years ago, is to be buried in this architectural jewel.
As a living example of the main productive activities of the Mochica culture, a handcraft village is to open at the Center for Sipan Tourism-Artisan Innovation Technology. The center is within the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum complex and is made up of four original artisan workshops: gold and silversmiths, pottery, weaving, medicinal plants and shamanism.
Location: Av. Juan Pablo Vizcardo y Guzman s/n. Lambayeque.
Attention: Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 AM. to 5:00 PM.
Telephone: (51 74) 283-978
Entrance: S/. 15 (US $ 4.5 aprox.), students S/. 7.50