Monday, March 21, 2011

A Pyramid Complex at Ucupe.

Go to any small village in the Lambayeque Region. Ask anyone you see if there are ruins or archeological sites in the area. The answer will almost always be no. Ask if there are ‘huacas’- an object that represents something revered, typically a monument of some kind, and chances are they can direct you to several of them. That was the case recently in Ucupe, a very small village on the Pan American highway 25 miles south of Chiclayo. A forty minute ride in a collectivo (private passenger cars that serve as public transportation) is about the only method of transportation.

The pyramid complex of huaca el Pueblo is one-half mile west of the village. Looking at the complex today it’s hard to imagine that in 2008 it was the center of archeological focus with the discovery of the tomb of the “Lord of Ucupe” and a fabulous wealth of artifacts. See “The Lord of Ucupe” for photos and description.

The main pyramid designated E-1 by the excavation team has several obvious places where excavation (or looting) had taken place and afterwards attempts had been made to restore the original appearance. There is no security or restrictions at the site. In fact there is nothing that distinguishes it from the rest of the desert landscape. The lack of recent looter digging or any other signs of activity seems to indicate that locals and archeologists have no further interest in the pyramids.

The ground of the complex is covered with more pottery shards than I have seen anywhere in the region. Most of the pieces appear to be of the Moche culture and are practical rather than ornamental. The young girl is Kathy. Her house is near the base of the pyramids. She told us that two years ago several gringos had visited the site to “study it.” This would have been the excavation sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She said that “after the study stopped and everything was covered with dirt” to her knowledge there have been no visitors to huaca el Pueblo.

Beside the many pottery shards another feature unique to this site is the horizontal lines on the adobe bricks. I have not seen that at any other site in the region. The lines are on all four sides of the bricks, and are in the interior as well as exterior parts of the pyramids. Bricks at the site of SeƱor Sipan have markings that supposedly indicate the person or group who made them, but those markings are only on the top of the brick.

At the base of one wall there appears to be remnants of a mural. The colors and placement remind me of several murals at the Ventarron site near the town of Pomalca.

Kathy told us of a legend regarding the gap at the top of the main pyramid. According to her none of the villagers come to the pyramids at night, because the gap opens and swallows anyone in the area ”and they are never seen again.” When I asked her if she believed the legend, she simply smiled, but added that she doesn't come here at night.

It had been an interesting but very hot day and after hiking back to Ucupe I was looking forward to returning to Chiclayo. During the next half hour we watched several full colectivos zoom by. I didn’t want to let on to the ladies, but I was starting to get a little apprehensive about our prospects for the evening. Knocking on doors begging for tamales and sleeping under the stars on a bed of sand has never been my strong suit. But not to worry…when the women had talked themselves out, Maribel got up and motioned to an approaching bus. It was one of those big double deck highway busses with reclining seats and air conditioning that travel the length of the Pan American highway. To my amazement it pulled over. It didn’t completely stop, but it pulled over on the shoulder, opened the door and slowed down long enough for us to board, which Maribel and Betzy did with style and I somehow managed with all the grace of a drunken peg-legged pirate. It felt good to get home.


1 comment:

  1. What an adventure! I just came back from the Chilean Andes, but I hear you on feeling good to be home. =)