Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Huaca Del Arco Iris (Huaca Del Dragon) and Huaca Esmeralda, Peru

Since we are staying in Huanchaco for a week or so, we have decided to take in the ruins around here and Trujillo, and there are a few. We do not want to drive the motorhome around so after talking with Edwin at the hostel, he suggested hiring a car and driver who will wait for us at each site. The main reason for this is that there are confirmed reports, and plenty of them, of tourists, especially those not in groups, getting mugged and robbed at these less visited archeological ruins. But hey, you only live once! Our first stop is the museum where we purchase our ticket which is good for four sites. The museum is small but gives a great overview of the Moche and Chimu cultures. The Moche evolved from 100 – 800 AD and the Chimu Empire reigned until it was conquered by the Inca in the late 1400’s. From there, Herve, our driver and now friend and confidant took us to Huaca Del Arco Iris. Huaca means temple so Huaca Del Arco Iris translates to the Temple of the Rainbow. Also known to the locals as Huaca Del Dragon, Huaca del Arco Iris dates from the 12 century and because it was buried in sand until its discovery in the 1960’s, it is one of the best preserved of the Chimu temples. The temple is guarded by both the police and the Dept. of Cultura and Herve takes us from the car to the compound and makes sure we are inside. Upon entering the huaca, a ramp leads to the first level. Figures carved on the walls take the form of a dragon (hence its name). Another ramp smaller than the first, leads to the second level. This level has pits which were possibly used to store food. The walls are slightly pyramidal and covered with repeated rainbow designs. One entire wall has been excavated to reveal stunning multiple carvings of rainbows, dragons, and what some archaeologists believe are male and female symbols of fertility. It is also thought that this may have been a fertility temple because in many ancient cultures, the rainbow represents rain considered to be the bringer of life. The detail and design of these drawings in the adobe mud is phenomenal and highly visible, although erosion through wind, sun and rain is an ongoing problem. There is a tiny souvenir store which makes pottery from molds that were actually found at the site. We bought a beautiful plate decorated in the Moche style. We also noticed that the guards would not let anyone out of the compound until either their taxi driver or in our case Herve came to get us. At no time did we see tourists allowed to walk out unescorted, further proof that they are taking these attacks seriously. The next stop is Huaca Esmeralda. Located in the Esmeralda suburb, the actual original name is not known and Esmeralda simply comes from the farm that occupied this area. In fact, it was the local landowner who actually discovered the site in 1923 when he accidently uncovered the ruins which were buried in sand. With little archaeological study done at this site, much of the information is simply estimated based on its proximity to Chan Chan. Occupying an area of approximately 2,600 square meters, the adobe temple is thought to have been constructed during the early development and building of Chan Chan. It is also thought that originally it could have been a separate palace for a great ChimĂș lord of the Mansiche area. The temple is made up of two platforms and like Chan Chan; its walls are adorned with sea life and geometric figures (diamonds) all in bas relief. There is a fairly steep ramp that connects the two levels. The first one located near the entrance, was built last and its decoration consists of fish caught in fishing nets. Behind it, the second platform and the oldest has similar decoration to Tschudi Palace in Chan Chan with designs fish, sea birds, waves and nets. Due to erosion from the elements, this temple is not in as good shape as Arco Iris nor is it as well preserved and it is a little more difficult to make out some of the patterns. However, both of these small temples was worth visiting as it really gives a sense of the vast scope of the Chimu culture and helps piece together the extent of the amazing citadel at Chan Chan and the massive Chimu Empire.

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