Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Mythical Naylamp and the Chotuna-Chornancap Pyramids

Legends differ regarding where Naylamp and his entourage came from, but all agree that he arrived on the shores of the Lambayeque Region sometime after the demise of the Moche culture, and was responsible for the rise of the Chimú and the Sicán (often used interchangeable with Lambayeque) cultures and the rebuilding of civilization in the region. The pyramid complex of Chotuna-Chornancap, located 10 miles to the southwest of the city of Lambayeque and discovered in 2008 is the physical ruin most closely associated with Naylamp.

Chotuna doesn’t see many visitors. Asking someone in Lambayeque how to get to the pyramids results in quizzical looks or at best vague arm motions indicating ‘somewhere out there.” We recently made our second try to locate the site. The first, 8 months ago ended with a terribly lost and confused moto driver dumping us in the middle of nowhere, leaving us to walk back to Lambayeque. This second attempt found us in a moto taxi on what amounts to a goat trail with a driver who stopped several times to ask directions from field workers. The 25 minute ride can best be described as a chiropractor’s delight.

After paying the 5 soles admission charge visitors are escorted to the one-year old site museum. The museum doors are unlocked only when the occasional tourist succeeds in finding the location. Once inside, the tiny museum is impressive with a wealth of written information and artifact

The artifacts on display are original with many found in the complex. This tumi, or sacrificial ceremonial knife greets the visitor upon entry. Several sacrificial knives were found in a pyramid apparently dedicated to sacrifice.

The Sicán, Chimú and Inca cultures are known to have practiced human sacrifice at the Chotuna location. The museum has the remains of several victims on display, including this young boy.

Most of what is known about Peruvian cultures comes from their pottery, and the museum has fine examples of beautiful pottery dating from the Moche, Sicán, Chimú and Inca cultures.

Many of the more impressive artifacts, including murals and the excavated temple of Naylamp are located at the pyramid Chornancap, seen in the far distant center. We were told by museum staff and the moto driver that there is no possibility of getting anywhere close to Chornancap, and even if we could get there the site is closed to visitors. Which to us is the major problem of the complex.

Tantalizingly close to the museum is the pyramid Chotuna. You can almost hear ancient voices enticing you to walk the ramp to the entrance door, but the voices of the museum staff speak louder. Like Chornancap, Huaca Chotuna is closed to visitors. In fact, leaving the immediate area of the museum grounds is prohibited.

As informative as the museum is, and as rich as the site’s history is, without being able to at least make contact with the pyramids a visit to the Chotuna-Chornancap complex is incomplete and not worth the effort.



  1. How frustrating. On the one hand, I can understand that they don't want the eroding pitter-patter of hiking boots all over the pyramids - but on the other hand, there needs to be a way to allow people some sort of contact. Great writing as usual, Tom!

  2. How fascinating Tom & Maribel. Good for you for being persistent and finding it even tho it was a look and not touch experience. Glad to hear you weren't dropped off in the middle of nowhere (again!) keep us posted as to future devs........ Marilyn & Mike

  3. Lambayeque continue spraying campaigns in schools and public places, especially now with Sika virus alert