Newsletter | Sep/Oct 2005

Hidden Treasures in Peru

by Mimi Malayan

This summer, I had the good fortune to join Teresa Sevilla, a native of Peru, with other friends, on a trip to her homeland. One's first thought of Peru is Macchu Picu and the impact of Incas. And while there's no question that the Inca left an indelible mark on a large part of South America, from the Andes to the coast, so much history and art predate this notable civilization.

About 350 north of Lima near the coast, is Trujillo, where we visited Moche tribe burial grounds, Las Huacas del Sol y de la Luna. These monuments of the sun and moon are mountain-like adobe structures climbing 165 feet tall. Estimated to be close to 2000 years old, artifacts of a similar age, including ceramics, textiles, and frescos, are being unearthed today from these desert pyramids. As there is practically no rainfall, these ancient sites have been relatively preserved, and only today are being exposed.

The construction of these giant structures was segmented: adobes stacked between columns were not joined with the adjacent section, improving its resistance to seismic activity. In an earthquake, independent sections might collapse, but the framework of the structure would remain. The adobes were all stamped by the manufacturing labor group, each with its own symbol. Within an area, one will find many different imprints, indicating particular labor assignments. "These marks are true signatures, like those of European printmakers..."

The stepped pyramid form featured multiple levels, with segments of varying heights and sizes, not necessarily symmetrical in layout. The different slant-sided platforms were connected by long sloping ramps and topped by small structuresÉwith angled rooflinesÉ. Typically open on three sides with a solid and /or decorated back wall, these buildings had a single and/or double-pitch roof, held up by wooden columns (another prestige item in the desert). To draw attention upward, rows of stylized war-clubs created roof-combs, or the gables overlapped." (Art of the Andes, Rebecca Stone-Miller, pp. 91-92).

This was just one of many sites we visited. We continued our bus ride to El Brujo, which is currently being excavated, and then on to Chan Chan and Lambayeque. Each of these represented another culture and period in pre-Columbian history. And there is so much we didn't see—and so much that hasn't yet been exposed. The ancient native peoples had rich cultures, which have been hidden for thousands of years, and are only now being discovered.

Some web-sites on this topic are:

Adobe Fresco

Fresco Warriors

A spectacular panorama (click here to enlarge)

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