Thursday, June 13, 2013

History Mystery: Sipan City Of Lords Of Gold And Sacrifice -1

Material looted from ancient Peruvian graves gave tantalizing glimpses of the splendours of Moche craftsmanship. Its full glories were revealed in 1987, when an argument between tomb robbers led to the discovery of a previously untouched burial. THE TREASURE HUNT BEGAN IN SOUTH AMERICA in the 16th century AD, when the Spaniards conquered the Inca and their neighbours. Their aim was to plunder precious artifacts, and they were prepared to go to any lengths to achieve it. In the city of Cerro Blanco, at the mouth of the Moche river in northern Peru, stood the vast Huaca del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) – a sacred mound with huge potential for a rich haul. The Spaniards hatched a clever plan to reveal its secrets. They diverted the waters of the Moche towards the mound, washing away part of its outer wall.

The sacred site gave up its silver and gold, crafted into works of art by a gifted civilization named after the river. The Moche, whose culture laid the foundations for the later Chimu, who in turn influenced their Inca conquerors, lived in river valley settlements along the coast of northern Peru, between the 1st and the 8th century AD. Their realms comprised a number of related kingdoms, rather than a unified state. At the height of their power, the Moche occupied land covering some 35,750km2 (13,803sq miles). East to west it spanned no more than 80km (50 miles) but stretched 550km (342 miles) from the Huarmey valley in the south to the Piura valley in the north. Between the two lay further treasure at Sipan, near present-day Chiclayo.

 It was here one night in February 1987 that a group of huaqueros, or tomb robbers, began digging into a sacred mound. They stumbled upon a fabulously rich burial. A series of mounds promised further treasures, but before the search could resume, the thieves fell out over the division of their finds, and one of the huaqueros gave his companions up to the police. The police called in Walter Alva, the director of the local archaeologist museum in the town of Lambayeque. Alva and his team investigated the chaotic remains of the looted tomb – with the help of armed guards to prevent further illicit plundering. The archaeologists set about painstakingly collecting clues to the nature of the burial and its rituals, unaware that the huaca, or sacred pyramid, was about to yield an amazing secret. Inside the plundered grave lay the skeleton of a man with a copper helmet and a shield. But beneath him were traces of decayed timbers – supports that formed the roof of another chamber below. This unexpected find led to the discovery of the most magnificent burial ever uncovered in the Americas. Inside the wooden chamber they found cane coffins containing two men, a dog, and two women. In the centre of these lay another coffin made of wood, containing the body of the man for whom the tomb had been created. The man had died in his late 30s or early 40s – a good age for the period when he lived, around AD 250. He was a warrior lord, dressed in an elaborately woven white tunic and sandals of silver. In his right hand he held a gold sceptre, in his left a silver one.

Other gold and silver objects had been placed on or underneath the man’s body, including a huge semicircular headdress, several helmets, and a series of decorated bells, which he had once worn at his waist. Out of the dust came gold and turquoise beaded pectorals, bracelets, and ear ornaments. Other funerary offerings included weapons, Spondylus (spiny oyster) shells, and fans with gold handles, some made of flamingo feathers. Archaeologists also found a series of cloth banners decorated with gilded copper. As if this fabulous discovery were not enough, Alva’s team subsequently uncovered two more richly furnished burials within the same mound. The second intact burial was of a similar date to the first, but was distinguished by a huge gold headdress in the form of an owl spreading its wings. The third had been buried several hundred years earlier, in the grave rather than a chamber, with a range of grave goods even more rich and elaborate than those in the tomb of the warrior lords. One outstanding piece among the older lord’s ornaments was a necklace of rattles. Each rattle consisted of a small gold hemisphere, about 8cm (3 in) in diameter, containing three tiny gold balls. Above the hemisphere, a mesh of gold wires formed a spider’s web, on which crouched a spider of beaten gold, its back decorated with a human face. The sacred mounds of the Moche were constructed of adobe bricks of sun-dried mud. The workers who built them were commoners, who paid their taxes in the form of labour. Labour gangs also constructed roads and canals for the transport of precious materials – turquoise and gold from the north and feathers from the forests to the east. Sea traders traveled far to the north to obtain Spondylus shells. These materials were wrought into the astonishing craftwork found inside the tombs. For the Moche were superb metallurgists. They mined and exported copper ores, as well as the goods created in their workshops. Traces of some of their workshops survive to the west, south, and east of Sipan. Some 15km (9 miles) farther up the valley, in later Moche times, a large town with substantial copper workshops emerged at Pampa Grande.
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  1. wow !! very nice piece of information .. and the photographs of the ancient art in black background looks amazing !

  2. Next time I shall go there instead of the south. Thank you for the wonderful information.

  3. This is new to me - interesting articles you collect

  4. The information is quite amazing and of course new. The civilization appears to have been very rich.


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