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Hey, Those Aren't Arabs!
The Pyramid of the Moon was in better condition than that of the Sun. There was much excavation at this site. Anamaria, a graduate student in Archeology acted as my guide, and as we climbed up the pyramid, she told many tales of shamans, lines of energy, and human sacrifice! One such tale was about a local Shaman who years before excavations began, dreamt in quite accurate detail about the tombs, artwork, and artifacts that would be found. Another described how men, women, and young children were thrown off the steep, lifeless Cerro Blanco in an effort to appease the gods and bring fertility and prosperity.
The pyramids of the Sun and Moon began construction in the first century A.D. by people that archeologists call the "Moches." (Check out Kevin's article about them last week: "Graverobbers and Life After Death - My Visit to a Moche Lord's Tomb".) The Huaca del Sol has eight levels, whereas the Huaca de la Luna only has six. Each pyramid took over several hundred years to build, with a new level being added by each new dynasty. In between the two, on the plain where the students were excavating, lie what were the homes of the high level administrators and religious figures (or so they think).
Making Sense of Pots and Sacrifices
Archeology is really just like a giant brainteaser. Ancient cultures leave clues, like old buildings, graves, pottery, and trash piles, that modern day archeologists dig through and try to figure out how they lived, what they ate, and what their religions and governments were like. As far as we know, the Moche didn't have a written language. Instead, they left detailed paintings on fancy pottery that were used in rituals. One such painting depicted a woman in the fancy clothes who drank the blood of sacrifice victims from an ornate goblet (maybe she was a queen or a priestess?). Later, they actually found a tomb of a woman dressed like the painting and holding a goblet! Cool, eh?
But wait! This is the desert, what rain? Well, remember "El Nino," that weird weather pattern that happens every seven years or so? The coast of Northern Peru has been gravely affected by "El Nino" throughout history. In 1982-83, it created such horrible flooding in this normally dry area that the damage is still visible. It wiped out roads and bridges and destroyed the crops. So, even though it rains very rarely here, when it does rain, it REALLY RAINS.
You can imagine how frightening it must have been for the Moches, living in this desert, when rains came so hard that their homes and fields were flooding. Their temple, which is made of adobe bricks, probably started melting, too. Clearly the horrible god Aicpaec was really angry. I wonder if the sacrifice of forty-two men was enough to calm him down?
Let's Put the River Over There...
Unfortunately, like many of the more remote sites here in Peru, much damage was caused by hauceros, or looters. They discovered the site before the archeologists, and stole the artifacts to sell illegally. But noe of that compares with what the Spanish did around 400 years ago. At the Huaca del Sol, Spanish colonists caused massive damage when they actually DIVERTED the Moche River to melt away the temple and wash out the treasure inside. The Spaniards destroyed two-thirds of the temple. What artifacts they found, they melted down for gold. We will never know what they were. These colonists must have been quite determined to get inside the huge pyramid.
Palm roofs made by the archeologists protect parts of the Huaca de la Luna, but much of it remains out in the open. Ironically, the very act of uncovering them for studying exposes them to elements that contribute to their destruction. Some friezes have actually been re-buried in the sand to protect them. Still, these mud buildings cannot last forever. Every time it rains (even if it is only every seven years) much of the history will be washed away. I feel really lucky that I got to see this spectacular site now.
Abeja - An Offering to the Odyssey Reading Gods and Goddesses
Kevin - Ancient Peruvian Fashion 101: Gold T-Shirts, and Three-Inch Earlobes
Monica - Inspector Monica Cracks the Case
Making a Difference - Violence in 'Peaceful Communities'
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