Hi -- Lyn Hamilton here again. The unveiling, or is it unwrapping?, of the Moche mummy from El Brujo, a so-called woman warrior, this week brought back fond memories of my research trip to Moche territory in northern Peru for the third novel in my series, The Moche Warrior. The mystery involves Moche artifacts, and much of it takes place at an archaeological project in the northern coastal desert of Peru. As part of the research I visited a dig being undertaken by my friend Dr. Andrew Nelson of the University of Western Ontario at San Jose de Moro near the town of Chepen. (In the book, Lara finds herself at a project near Campina Vieja, which is a fictional town that looks remarkably like Chepen.) That trip to Peru was one of the best trips I've ever taken, both as a traveler and as a researcher. In terms of my writing, I think it was the first time I ever realized how close the work of an archaeologist is to that of a detective -- sifting through clues, making those intuitive leaps from the 'evidence', but more than anything else, the ability of both archaeologist and detective to, in some sense, speak for the dead.
On my way to Chepen, which I have to tell you is well off the beaten track, I spent some time in Trujillo, and spent a day at El Brujo where the mummy was found. El Brujo is an extraordinary site/sight. There are murals there depicting quite ferocious beings, and a scene showing captives being sacrificed. Quite unnerving, but fascinating just the same. To put the Moche in some sort of historical context: while we know the Inka very well, there were many sophisticated civilizations and cultures pre-Inka, and the Moche certain qualify. They built huge cities, complete with large mudbrick pyramids, in the coastal desert of northern Peru and flourished between the first and eighth centuries AD. For a long time very little was known about them until the 1980's, when through a set of circumstances having to do with a falling out among tomb robbers, or huaqueros as they are called there (one of the thieves complained to the police that he hadn't got his share of the loot!!) a magnificent tomb was found at Sipan. It revealed a very rich and sophisticated culture, and the artifacts from the tombs, the gold, silver, turquoise and so on, were of exceptional workmanship.
More and more is being learned about these ancient people, and the mummy of the woman, with her tattoos and weapons, is another bit of information to be studied and considered. If she is a warrior, then she would be the first female Moche warrior to be found. We may never know whether she is or not. It is always possible that warriors placed weapons in the tomb of an important woman, although not a warrior, to protect her.
The Inka, and of course Machu Picchu, continue to dominate the tourist map of Peru. However there are many lesser known sites, and El Brujo and Sipan are two of them, that are well worth a visit. The northern desert is arid, flat, a narrow strip of land between the Pacific and the Andes, and it is not as spectacular as the mountainous region around Machu Picchu, which may explain why it is not as popular -- that and the distances one has to travel to get to Trujillo and on to Sipan, via Chiclayo. Once there, though, the sites are spectacular. El Brujo was closed when I was there researching, and I was most fortunate to be able to see it, thanks to my contacts in the field. Friends visiting last year couldn't get in because National Geographic was filming. That would be one of the downsides to heading north in Peru. There is a new museum in Sipan that houses the so-called Royal Tombs of Sipan. I haven't met anyone who has seen the tomb contents who hasn't been blown away. Well worth the trouble of getting there. Best, Lyn H