Sunday, October 01, 2017

Around the World - 24 Days - 9 Countries - The North Coast of Peru and Ancient South America

This is going to be one amazing trip! We will use a privately chartered Boeing 757-200 aircraft to fly once around the world. I'll fly about 31,000 miles just on the private jet. In these 24 days our group of 80 will visit 9 different countries, see 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and stay in some pretty amazing resorts. My job is to accompany the passengers who paid $80,000 each to be here and to give lectures on the jet about the earth history and landscapes to be seen along the way. If you'd like to enjoy some armchair traveling, I'll relate on this blog what it is like to partake on such a journey.

I was asked to accompany a small group of 8 persons to the North Coast of Peru where some world-class archaeological sites are located (the rest of the group went to Cusco and Machu Picchu). These eight had visited Machu Picchu before and so opted for this alternative destination.

As the great Lao Tsu once said 2,600 years ago, "The journey of 31,000 miles on a private jet begins with one flight." Just after take of, I could see that a Hurricane Maria had recently been here too - the lakeside vegetation was inundated with brown water.

Cape Canaveral and the site of the launch pad for the US space program.

Northern Peru is located in the Atacama, the world's driest desert. Rainfall here averages about 15 mm or 1/2 an inch per year. However, this past March there were a huge floods everywhere - see a very interesting photo story here that ran in The Atlantic magazine. The light-colored material climbing the volcanic rocks in the background is wind-blown sand.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, this region is Peru's largest sugar and rice growing area. Both of these crops are water-intensive and the normally big rivers coming out of the Andes are now dewatered by the time they reach the coast. Here are sugar plantations of which we saw mile after mile after mile while touring here.

Our journey begins in Peru's third largest city, Trujillo. The Colonial buildings are being restored and are wonderfully painted.

More Colonial buildings on the Plaza Mayor.

This is a tile arrangement in the lobby of our Trujillo hotel showing a map of the city from the 17th century. It shows that the city was surrounded by a wall with 15 bastions. It was built to protect the city from privateers and pirates.

The cathedral of Trujillo has recently been painted in the colors of the Vatican...

...because on January 20, 2018, Pope Francis will visit the city.

This is a picture of the same cathedral I took in December, 1995.

The cathedral at night taken from a portico in our hotel.

A map of the Moche River valley where the Huaca del Sol y de La Luna is located (Shrine of the Sun and the Moon). This was a principle Moche site from 200 to 800 AD, although every river valley coming out of the Andes had a major Moche site associated with it.

Walking up to the Huaca de La Luna.

The last time I was here was 22 years ago and these frescoes were just being exposed from beneath crumbled walls and wind-blown sand. There are now many linear feet that have been uncovered.

Detail of a fresco.

It is amazing to think that these were mostly unknown until quite recently and they do give archaeologists a deeper insight into the life ways of the Moche people.

This is a detail of an interpretive sign that shows the grand plaza. The photos that follow were taken on the floor of the plaza looking at the multi-colored wall.

None of this was exposed just 20 years ago.

Some of these were carved out of soft mud while most were made by applying plaster to the wall and shaping the figure.

This string of men depicted with a rope around their necks introduces the idea that the Moche, like their Meso and nearby South American cousins - the Maya, Inca and Aztecs - practiced ritualized human sacrifice. For the Moche it was intra-tribal sacrifice where members f their own group were sacrificed. A game using war clubs was initiated whenever the high priests would determine that a sacrifice was needed to appease the gods. When one man knocked the helmet off another and then grabbed him by the hair, a winner and loser was declared. The losers were shepherded to a holding pen for a week or so, then brought out to a sacrificial platform.

This was the Moche sacrificial platform at Huaca de La Luna. The leader waited on the platform while a warrior then carried out the sacrifice.

Another interpretive sign showing the ritualized sacrifice. The kneeling person is offering a cup of the victims blood to the leader, which he may drink or discard as he chooses. One wonders how such a ritualized tradition became started. Often, it was El Niño events (flooding) or La Niña events (drought) that would initiate the call for a sacrifice, appealing to the gods to make things "normal." In our modern world with a knowledge of science, it may seem quite strange that "gods" wanted human blood to stop or give rain. I enjoy imagining the deeply held beliefs of our ancestors - their world-view was so different than ours!

At the sacrificial site, the bones of victims were found. Apparently, the ritualized sacrifice was discovered with the unveiling of the wall murals - the practice was unknown to the Moche before that time.

Up the coast we visited the coastal town of Huanchaco, where reed boats are used for fishing in the Pacific Ocean. A painting in a restaurant depicts such a scene.

Reed boats on the beach at Huanchaco.

We had a demonstration from a man who has been building these boats  since 1960 (which last about one month before they are too soaked with water to float).

Junior getting ready to take the boat out.

The next ruin was called El Brujo, meaning The Wizard because Peruvians held shamanic rites here before it was dug scientifically. This platform however is called the Huaca de La Señora e Cao, as an important female burial was discovered here in 2006.

Interpretive sign showing the huaca during its time of occupation.

Cross-section through the huaca. Note that these are shelled pyramids like the Mayan temples in Yucatan. Each successive building covered the earlier platform such that there are numerous platform mounds set inside each other. At Huaca de La Señora de Cao there are seven platforms, each one younger than the one it covers.

Detail of a wall.

This is a view of the Huaca El Brujo, with the waves of the Pacific Ocean in the background. All of the pock marks in the valley floor is where looting occurred prior to the excavations. Peru has a national campaign against indigenous-area looting now and many citizens are now against grave robbery.

Wonderfully preserved mural wall.

Painted wall with birds.

This is the tomb of the Lady of Cao, discovered and unearthed in only 2006. Prior to this discovery, the role females in Moche society was little known. But she must have been an important person with the amount of adornment surrounding her in the tomb.

A reconstruction of the face of the Lady of Cao, using modern forensic science.

A Peruvian hairless dog. We saw many of these on the North Coast.

Next stop - Easter Island.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for refreshing my memory. Good photos and explanations. We visited all those spots just over a year ago, and loved our time in Trujillo. Did you also visit Chan Chan?


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