Moche and Chimu civilizations, Trujillo, Day 21

Mural of the Moche deity Ayapec (Decapitator), Temple of the Moon, Trujillo, Peru

A little bit of culture today…

The remains of two important pre-Columbian cultures, the Moche (who flourished between 100 – 800 AD) and their descendants, the Chimu (who were eventually conquered by the Incas  around 1470 AD) are located in the arid, desert-like environs of Trujillo.  Indeed, the largest pre-Columbian structure ever built in Peru, The Temple of the Sun can be found here.  Sadly this relic of the Moche era appears to be returning to the desert from which it was constructed.  The adjacent  Temple of the Moon has, by contrast, been extensively excavated and some amazing polychrome friezes have been discovered.  There’s also some evidence to suggest that human sacrifice was performed here during el niño years to prevent flooding of the city.

After lunch we turn our attention to the Chimu civilization.  The first of two sites we visit is the well-preserved Temple of the Dragon located in the suburbs of Trujillo, which was thought to be important center for conducting fertility rituals.  Next is the capital of the Chimu civilization, the vast city complex of Chan Chan, which, at its peak, was home to some 30,000 people (making it the largest pre-Columbian city in Latin America at that time).  Most of Chan Chan has yet to be excavated, but some impressive carvings of fish, fishing nets, the ocean, mammals and birds have already been uncovered.

Our enthusiasm for all things archaeological wane quite quickly, however, and especially in the presence of the Peruvian hairless dogs that roam the temple grounds.  These guys are so ugly you have to love them.  An odd fact about these dogs is that their core body temperature is much higher than that of normal dogs, so they feel like hot water bottles.  Indeed, historically, people with arthritic conditions are believed to have used them as body warmers.  Not a lot of people know that.


Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes

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