Ancient Adobe Cities

Monday, July 9, we visited the two major archeological sites near Trujillo: “Huacas de la Luna and del Sol”, and “Chan Chan”. We were picked up at the hotel just after 10AM for the tour of the sites and were driven into Trujillo by an interesting taxi driver with interesting coments along the way. We met the rest of the tour group at the Plaza Mayor and were off to visit the large pyramid of Huaca de la Luna. This is an active excavation site. The large adobe pyramid structure contains many layers of prior pyramids and their temples. Like many other of the pre-Columbian ceremonial centers that we have visited in Mexico and Central America, one pyramid is buried inside a newer one, over and over again with the most recent on top. Here there are about 90 years between the layers, each representing a new ruling group. Here the pyramids are of adobe mud bricks (unlike the Aztec and Mayan ruins that are always of stone). Much artwork and exterior decorations in the lower levels were preserved buried in the mud that washed down from the upper layers in the infrequent desert rains. Even some of the decorations on the outer layers were protected under sand that blew in after the pyramids were abondoned. Richly colored murals and wall decorations have been uncovered including many levels on the facade of one side of the structure. Excavations are still continuing here and they are starting to unbury the large city hidden under the desert sand at the pyramid’s base and continuing to the other pyramid at the site, Huaca del Sol. This second pyramid in not being excavated at present and looks like a large mud hill growning out of the desert sand.

We returned to Trujillo for lunch before continuing on to the second site, Chan Chan. After lunch we continued toward the coast to visit the largest adobe mud city ever built. During it’s prime, over 100,000 Chimu people (pre-Inca) lived here. As we approached the site we could see the remains of adobe walls on both sides of the road stretching out into the distance. We first visited Huaca Dragon. It is a partially restored pyramid with no active digging going on at present. The lower parts of some of the outer walls show raised designs that had been protected in the mud until uncovered by the archeologists. The paint was missing but they had found enough to show that the pyramid had once been painted yellow. We continued on to the small museum where we spent little time as it contains few artifacts. Moving on thru the mud city we visited the one (out 9 known) palace in the city that has been opened to tourists. The palace itself covers a large area and is surrounded by a thick adobe wall over 10 meters tall. Inside are passages leading to inner and more inner courtyards ending in the far interior at a large tomb. The tomb was surrounded by 44 smaller ones and all had contained riches; pottery, jewelry, cloths, copper, gold and silver artifacts and other riches. All had been sacked by grave robbers long before the modern archeologists arrived. Also inside the palace was a large cistern which tapped the underground water. One of the black hairless dogs (that is a decendent of the pre Columbian ones) was swimming in the pool. Doreen got several photos of the dog. Some of the walls of the courtyards and housing area were decorated with reliefs and had been protected, again by the washed-down mud and sand. Representations of birds, fish, water and the sky were visible as well as some simple geometric designs.

It was a very interesting day and we returned to Huanchaco after 6PM, very tired but in time to have a beer and watch the sunset.