Huaca de la Luna
Huaca de la Luna ("Temple/Shrine of the Moon") is a large adobe brick structure built mainly by the Moche people of northern Peru. It, with the Huaca del Sol, is part of Huacas de Moche, the remains of an ancient Moche capital city called Cerro Blanco by modern archaeologists.
The Huacas de Moche site is located 4 km outside the modern city of Trujillo, near the mouth of the Moche River valley. The Huaca de la Luna, though it is the smaller of the two huacas at the site, yields the most archaeological information. The Huaca del Sol was partially destroyed and looted by Spanish conquistadors in the 17th century, while the Huaca de la Luna was left relatively untouched. It is believed today that the Huaca del Sol may have been more administrative, military, residential and burial mound for the Moche elite, while the Huaca de la Luna served a largely ceremonial and religious function, though it contains burials as well.
Though today the Huaca de la Luna is colored the soft brown of its adobe brickwork, just after its construction it would have been an impressive site to behold. The huaca was decorated in registers of murals which were painted in black, bright red, sky blue, white, and yellow. The sun and weather has since faded these murals away, but other murals used in earlier phases of construction can still be seen inside the Huaca. Many of these depict a deity now known as Ayapec. "Ayapec" is a pre-Quechua word translating as all knowing. "Wrinkle-Face" is the name given to another deity by the later Inca because of the deity's appearance.
An interesting aspect of the temple's construction is that many of the later bricks used in the structure bear one of over 100 different markings, maybe corresponding to each group of laborers. Each "team" was maybe assigned a mark to put on their bricks, and these were used to count the number of bricks laid for financial as well as (presumably) competitive purposes.
The Huaca de la Luna itself is a large complex of three main platforms, each one serving a different function. The northernmost platform, at one time brightly decorated with a variety of murals and reliefs, was destroyed by looters. Because of this, the central and southern platforms have been the focus of most excavations. The central platform has yielded multiple high-status burials interred with a variety of fine ceramics, suggesting that it was used as a burial ground for the Moche religious elite, while the Huaca del Sol may have been used for the interment of rulers.
The eastern platform, black rock & adjacent patios were the site of human sacrifice rituals which are depicted in a variety of Moche visual arts, most notably painted ceramics. After their sacrifice, bodies of victims would be hurled over the side of the Huaca and left exposed in the patios. This finding is supported by the discovery of multiple skeletons of adult males found at the foot of the rock, all of whom show signs of grisly trauma, usually a severe blow to the head, as the cause of death.
The World Monuments Fund has been working at Huaca de la Luna because the site requires conservation work, including ongoing assessments, documentation, stabilization, and consolidation of excavated architectural and decorative elements.
- Art of the Andes, from Chavin to Inca. Rebecca Stone Miller, Thames and Hudson, 1995.
- The Incas and their Ancestors. Michael E. Moseley, Thames and Hudson, 1992.
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