Chiclayo y El Señor de Sipán

Chiclayo Ruins

Exploring Chiclayo

Chiclayo is about three hours north of Trujillo in northwest Peru, not far from the coast. It was founded near the Northern Wari ruins, an important archaeological site. There are additional archaeological sites of the Moche (Mochica) and Chimu cultures in this area near the coast. Today, the city is best known for its colonial architecture, nice beaches and great seafood. On the bus ride up, we passed miles and miles of rice cultivation, as well as sugar cane. The Lambayeque region is a thriving business hub of northern Peru, and Chiclayo is its capital, the fourth largest city in the country. Most interesting though, is the region’s ancient history.

Sipan Museum

Señor de Sipán

In 1987, after stopping the robbery of graves at the site, archaeologists from the National Museum moved in to explore a large platform in front of two big pyramids near the town of Sipan, not far from Chiclayo. They have, since then, discovered three intact tombs of Moche royalty with amazing contents, as well as numerous other secondary burials.  At the site you can take a look at the tombs, which hold replicas of what was found in the tomb of the Lord of Sipan, the Old Lord of Sipan and the grave of the Priest. Sipan´s importance lies in the fact that it is one of the only graves of this type found before looters got to it. The Señor de Sipán, wore funeral clothes adorned with silver, gold and jewels. It has been discovered that he was a ruler of the 5th century who died when he was 30-40 years old.

The Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum is in nearby Lambayeque, and is a world-class facility. It houses most of the gold, silver and copper artifacts and treasures that were recovered from the intact graves.  You could spend many hours in the museum (we did), gazing in awe at the craftsmanship and delicate intricacy of the ornaments, decorations, jewelry and vestments of this leader, who was considered almost a god, dead for 1700 years.  He was buried with concubines, warriors, a child, dog and llama, along with hundreds of ceramic offering containers for food, water, etc., all representing human figures that would accompany him on to the next life.  There were countless necklaces, breastplates, earrings, head pieces, even a sort of tweezers for pulling out facial hair (which looked like a painful, time consuming process!).  Everything was decorated with symbols and animal or human-animal figures showing Sipan´s relationship to the gods and natural phenomena.  A few of the skeletons were found with feet cut off, and were thought to have been left to guard the tombs (obviously, without feet they´d have to stay put!).

Chiclayo View

Valley of the Pyramids

We visited several sites in the Valley of the Pyramids (there are 26 in all). Everywhere, the pyramids looked like hard dirt mounds, with deep striations from years of rain. The more rain an area receives, the more deterioration of the structures. One spot, Túcume, has a lookout from which you can see a panoramic view of the whole valley and just how extensive the civilization in the area was. There are walls, pyramids and structures everywhere.  One structure, Huaca Larga, runs from the foot of Purgatory Hill for about 2300 feet, making it the longest known adobe structure even found.  There is also evidence of Inca conquest and occupation in structures built higher on the hills in stone rather than adobe.

Photos of Sipan and the surounding areas have been added at the end of this album on Picasa.

About the author

Tamara and Donny have wandered together since 2004, with no cure for their insatiable wanderlust. They write about discovering new destinations including beautiful photography, plus budget travel tips and how to give back through travel.