Sipan, North Peru

In 1987 archaeologists made a remarkable find in Sipan, 30km South East of Chiclayo in Northern Peru. Under what at first appeared to be a couple of giant piles of mud, they found several Moche tombs and hundreds of dazzling artifacts in Gold, Silver, Bronze as well as one of the finest collections of pre-Colombian ceramics in the Americas.

Sipan, Peru

The story behind the discovery is perhaps as fascinating as the place itself. Archaeologist Doctor Walter Alva suddenly noticed an influx of amazingly intricate Moche artifacts on the international black market. Some of these were intercepted by the FBI in Miami as they were smuggled into the States. He immediately realised that a huge Moche burial site had been found in Peru and was in the process of being ransacked, probably by local farmers.

The giant mud hills pictured above were of course not made by pre-Colombian termites, but by the Moche people around AD300. Originally they were huge truncated pyramids made from millions of Adobe bricks, but over the years erosion has taken its toll, hiding the pyramids from everyone – including thankfully from the Spanish Conquistadors.

The most fascinating tomb of all, was that of the Lord of Sipan who was found buried with huge amounts of gold and jewellery, most of which is now in the excellent museum Tumbes Reales at Lambayeque (a short distance from Chiclayo)

Who were the Moche?

Everyone has heard of the Incas, who took control of Peru around 1500AD, but very few people have heard of the Peruvian Cultures preceding the Incas – including the Huaca Prieta, Chavin, Moche, Sica and Chimu. Moche culture evolved from around 200BC and lasted to about AD 850.

The Moche loved building Adobe pyramids, and made some of the most creative ceramics in the Americas, depicting the organisation of their society as well as religion.

Photos of Sipan and some of the treasure