As a young boy, I was a member of a society that went searching for dinosaur fossils and other clues to ages past. We would often find little treasures - fossilized bones, plants, fish, and teeth- within an amazingly short distance of my home in Philadelphia! Well, for decades the people of Northern Peru have also been finding little treasures in their own backyards. However, the things they often find are... GOLD! Can you imagine finding gold in your backyard?
Well, just my luck, most of the museum was under renovation when I arrived and only one small room was left open to the public. However, to my astonishment, this one small room contained enough gold to fund an entire decade of World Treks! The gold was from many different cultures from all over northern Peru.
The first pieces that I saw come from the Vicus culture around roughly 100-300 AD (about the same time that the Moche were developing in the neighboring river valleys to the south, and about 1700 years before you were born!). I immediately noticed three solid gold bowls, all roughly the same size and shape. It's hard to imagine ever owning or using just one of these bowls, but a set of three? Even though they are gold, they don't look shiny, like one would expect. In fact, these bowls look rather dull in comparison. However, this just makes them seem so much more authentic as ancient gold artifacts.
The Vicus used holes cut into the earth's hard clay to mold the gold into pieces they could use by melting and pouring it into holes. When the gold cooled and hardened into its new shape, the Vicus removed the pieces for finishing touches.
The other pieces in the room were created much later, between 900-1250AD (only about 700 years before you were born!), by another lesser-known Peruvian culture called the Lambayeque. They flourished much closer to where the museum itself actually stands today. On the whole, the Lambayeque pieces are heavier, larger, and more detailed than the other jewelry and are more functional. Believe it or not, it was considered a privilege of the rich and not a burden to wear jewelry made out of these heavy pieces. Several earrings are displayed, some so large (up to three inches in diameter) that they often stretch out the owner's earlobes! They remind me of large bolts. (What some will do for fashion!)
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