Visual Archaeology Interpretation



Sicán Elite of Huaca Loro, Painting by Christiane Clados-Gold Mask, National Museum of Sicán, Lambayeque, Peru

Flourishing from A.D. 800 to 1375, Sicán was a society of farmers, ceramic artisans, fishermen, and metalworkers. It built adobe - brick platform mounds for ceremonial and funerary purposes. The region, a broad river valley extending some 25 miles between the Pacific Ocean and the Andean foothills, is called Batán Grande. In 1978, surveying the area to prepare for fieldwork archaeologist Izumi Shimada found that looters had dug thousands of holes to reach tombs that contained gold ornaments and other valuables.

Better Than Gold: A Hidden Culture Comes to Light
Izumi Shimada 2004

The north coast, running about 200 miles along the Pacific, boasts fertile river valleys. The pre-Incan culture that Izumi Shimada named Sicán means "temple of the moon," the indigenous name for the place where its capital was located. "What you're looking at is agricultural productivity, says Shimada. That typically means large populations, and it's inevitable there would be some sort of important cultural development. And that's exactly what you have in the north coast. It was a succession of complex societies."

Gold and Silver in situ, Photographs National Museum of Sicán, Lambayeque, Peru

Like their Moche precursors, the people of Sicán built monumental temples and palaces where rituals and funerals demanded splendid paraphernalia. The people of Sicán built highly refined irrigation opening the desert to richly productive agriculture. A far-flung trade system brought in feathers from the Amazonian tropical rainforest to the east and lapis lazuli from Chile, far to the south.

The lords of Sicán were buried in deep tombs, lying at the bottom of vertical shafts. In 1995 Izumi Shimada excavated one of the richest tombs ever found in the western hemisphere. It contained more than a ton of precious metal shaped as jewelry and of ritual artifacts. They show the highly perfected techniques achieved by Sicán gold and silver smiths.

Internet Links

Better than Gold

Sican: Lesson Plan (PDF File)



The Culture of Sicán: Treasure Tomb From Peru's Desert Coast


























Copyright ©2004 Linda Kreft