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If Decapitated Heads Could Talk!!

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Could I have you for dinner?
When you walk into most museums you are welcomed by an information desk, and a friendly security guard, right? Well, at the Max Uhle museum, located near the ruins of Sechin, I was greeted by a well-preserved skeleton of a woman, aged thirty or so when she died, in a small model of a typical habitation of the time. She was actually about 2,600 years old, and counting! (Her knees must be killing her by now!)

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Cities in Peru: Trujillo, Chimbote, Sechin, Casma, Huaraz
Thank goodness I also met a live human named Gavino! He is one of forty-two men who are working on a government-sponsored project to excavate the Sechin ruins here in the coastal desert near Casma, Departamento de Ancash (370 kilometers north of Lima). Since I was the only visitor to the ruins today, many of the workers were extremely friendly. Gavino said he was helping cut out rocks from above the main temple, where they were going to place a mirador, or viewpoint. He would be working until May 27, when this particular excavation ends.

The dry air preserves the Sechin ruins.
The ruins of Sechin, which lie on about five hectares of land, are right near the Pan-American highway, and are well-preserved by the dry air. Thanks to the work of archeologists like Gavino, we know the ruins date back from 1600 B.C. This period is known as the Initial Period, from 2000 to 1000 B.C. The main pyramid at Sechin Alto is one of the largest constructions ever built in pre-Hispanic Peru.

Warriors marching to battle.
Sechin is an example of ceremonial architecture, which is similar to a monument and decorated with mythical and perhaps religious scenes. On the exterior wall, all the way around, is a story told by about 400 stone sculptures of warriors: heads, intestines, torsos, and other body parts. Unfortunately, on the surrounding rocks there is also a lot of modern graffiti of the "Maria- Te Amo" (Maria, I love you) kind!

The sculptures were made by granite rocks that the creators quarried from a huge hill, directly behind the monument. The stones were then worked on without the benefit of metal tools--by flaking, pecking, and abrading, possibly with sand and water! Then, designs were sketched in charcoal and later cut into the stone in grooves about eleven millimeters wide and seven millimeters deep!

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Just one of many decapitated heads!
All of the sculptures are of humans: there are no animals or gods. The sculptures portray two warrior tribes fighting each other. You can almost hear the cries of the wounded and the shouts of the victorious. On all the exterior walls you see the winning tribe, with pillbox headdresses and flowing loincloths. You can also see the wounded and dying victims. For example, there are lines of blood gushing out from some of the decapitated heads (about 70% of the carvings are of decapitated heads) and there are piles of body parts, like heads stacked in columns, arms, legs, spinal parts, and pairs of eyes. Hey! Anybody hungry? (Just kidding.) Some of the heads are stacked sideways or upside down, with their eyes closed or tongues hanging out, like one might see on an actual battlefield!

Archeologists have suggested that the buildings are similar to a war monument, and perhaps the pyramid portrays some of the fighting and inter-tribe warfare that happened long ago. Whether you prefer company of the alive or dead kind, the next time you're in Peru you should definitely check this place out. You'll be stunned at what people are able to accomplish when they set their mind to it - even without the use of metal tools!


Shawn - For Your Eyes Only: Shawn's Adventure in Peru
Abeja - Is There Thanksgiving in Peru?
Team - The Conquistadors: They Came, They Conquered, and Left Their Mark
Kavitha - It's a Small World After All!
Making a Difference - Constant Threat at Big Mountain
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