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The Moche Capital City of Sipán

Moche Archaeology at Sipán


Moche Archaeology at Sipán (Peru)

Moche Archaeology at Sipán (Peru)

Proyecto Prodesipan (c) 2007
The archaeological site of Sipán is a large Moche culture administrative and religious center, located in the lower Lambayeque Valley on the northern coast of Peru. The site, occupied between about AD 200 and 800, consists of three adobe pyramids and other features such as ramps and platforms. Discovered in the 1980s when it was being looted, the site has since been excavated under the direction of Walter Alva, director of the Museo Tumbas Royales de Sipán.

The people archaeologists call the Moche lived in small towns within the arid coastal plain wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the foothills of the Andes Mountains of northern Peru. Artifacts and architecture of the Moche are found along the Peruvian coastline for a distance of just about 550 kilometers (340 miles), and that area is divided by the Pampa de Paijan desert into two halves, north and south. Scholars are uncertain whether the Moche were one kingdom or two separate valley states, and it is possible that that may have changed over the seven centuries-long lifespan of the culture.

The Moche were farmers, growing a wide variety of crops, including corn, beans, guava, avocado, squash, chili pepper and peanuts; they domesticated llamas, guinea pigs, and ducks. They used the marine resources of the Pacific and coastal estuaries as well, harvesting shrimp, fish, crabs, crayfish and mollusks. They sailed in reed boats, and participated in active trade with their neighbors, obtaining lapis lazuli from Chile and spondylus shells from Ecuador.

The Moche built huge mud brick pyramids at Sipán and other sites, and like this one, often they are so eroded that they appear to be natural hills.


Alva, Walter and Christopher B. Donnan. 1993. Royal Tombs of Sipán. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles.

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