Visual Archaeology Interpretation



Burial I and Burial II of Sipán, Paintings by Christiane Clados

"Little did we realize that as our excavation proceeded at Sipán we would find the answers to our questions. Ultimately, these objects, which seemed so strange and puzzling out of context, were to become known and familiar to us. Moverover, they were to provide valuable information not only about the Moche people, but also about the specific individuals whose royal tomb had been so ruthlessly torn apart by the looters."

On a dark night in February 1987, a group of tomb robbers called huaqueros, dug feverishly into an eroded Moche pyramid near the village of Sipán. Lookouts were posted nearby to warn them if police or government officials appeared. All of a sudden, one of the diggers broke into a burial chamber with the platform. As he scanned the chamber with his kerosene lantern, he saw gold beads, and gold and silver ornaments glistening in the moonlight. Quickly, the men grabbed the beads from gold and silver necklaces and parts of other ornaments, breaking some as they stuffed the artifacts in a bag. The next day, they sold some of the treasures to middlemen, who paid them more money than the huaqueros could make by harvesting sugarcane for a year. Before a month had passed, these gold and silver artifacts were sold to collectors throughout the world, at much higher prices than the robbers were paid. When the rest of the villagers learned about how much money the huaqueros had been paid for the treasures unearthed at the Sipán pyramid, they wanted to enjoy some of the same success. Soon men, women, and children flocked to the adobe mound. Using shovels and their bare hands, they poked and pried in frenzy for scraps of metal, ceramic vessels, and beads; anything the huaqueros had not discovered or had overlooked. When Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva realized what had happened at Sipán, he persuaded the police to help him stop the pillaging of what he knew was a burial of unprecedented magnificence. With funds from the National Geographic Society and some local agencies, he hired local workmen to construct a fence around the site and he began a scientific excavation of the tomb.

Internet Links

Moche Revealed: The Digger

Moche Burials Uncovered National Geographic

Dynasty of the Moche Culture: Lesson Plan (PDF File)



A Dynasty of the Moche Culture: The Royal Tombs of Sipán



















Copyright ©2004 Linda Kreft