Moche Temples – Las Huacas del Sol y de la Luna

While Southern Peru is famous for its Inca ruins, Northern Peru is home to much older ancient ruins…

Just a combi ride away from Trujillo lie Las Huacas del Sol y de la Luna – The temples of the Sun and Moon – two of the oldest temples in the area… These temples are both Moche temples – the Moche civilisation existed between 100 and 700 AD i.e. a long time ago!! – and it’s believed that they used to be part of the same ‘complex’…

It’s not possible to go inside the Huaca del Sol… but it looks pretty amazing from the outside due to its sheer size…

Huaca del Sol as seen from Huaca de la Luna… it’s pretty huge, and impressive to look at!

We did however get to visit Huaca de la Luna on a tour… and not the usual expensive Peruivian style tour… this one was for a voluntary contribution – nothing more!?!

The tour of Huaca de la Luna was great – not only was it in English, but we were quite a small group too – just the two of us and a family of four… The guide had awesome English and was really knowledgeable 🙂

We learnt that during the Moche civilisation, the Huaca de la Luna had a religious and ceremonial function, and that the site had changed considerably since the first structure was built… interestingly the structure continued to be made up of three platforms and four ceremonial plazas, however the original pyramid-like structure was not the one that we could see – in fact archaeologists had worked out that there were in fact SIX structures built on top of each other, and that each structure was bigger in size than the one before it! It is believed that the building of a new structure occured every 100 years – possibly as part of a ceremonial calendar – and that when it occured, that the structure being used at the time, was closed off and covered with adobe bricks – allowing for the new bigger pyramidic structure to be built over the top of the old structure…

Our tour of the Huaca del la Luna started on the eastern side of the site… near the human sacrifice platform!

The guide told us that it is believed that it was the losers of ritual battles that were sacrificed to the Gods – the sacrifices weren’t done in public, but once the sacrifices had occured and the blood taken from their bodies – the priest would show the blood to the people who were crowded into the northern plaza…

Huaca de la Luna, with Cerro Blanco in the background… this is from the eastern side of the temple.

Inside the pyramid structure was pretty impressive… on the tour we got to stroll along specially designed walkways so that we could see some really awesome reliefs and murals on the inner walls of the temples. Not all the reliefs and murals we saw were from the same structure either – archaeologists have been working on the site for quite a while, and have revealed areas of the different structures built on top of each other.

We also got to check out the adobe bricks used to make Huaca de la Luna – interestingly each brick was made by hand… AND each brick had a signature mark of the person who had made the brick on it…

Images of the Moche God – Ai Apaec – appear throughout the Huaca de la Luna.
Another mural of the Moche God – Ai Apaec.
A detailed relief on the walls inside the Huaca de la Luna.
Some adobe bricks – each one with a signature – from a few dots to a stick person – of the person who made the brick.
Looking down at a lower floor of one of the temples.
A slightly different representation of Ai apaec.
And this time slightly different again!
This platform is where priests used to stand, to show the crowds who were in the main ceremonial square, the blood from the human sacrifices!

The original entrance of the Huaca de la Luna was on the north side of the temple, and it was here – on the North Ceremonial Plaza – that we saw the best preserved Moche mural. Despite the big hole in the middle – which was made by looters – you can see six rows of different images…

The north face of the north ceremonial plaza.
An extremely detailed mural in the northern ceremonial plaza.
A close-up of some of the images.
A second close-up.

In spite of all the cool discoveries at Huaca de la Luna to-date, it continues to be an active archaeology excavation site – the excavation areas are off-limits for now… but you can get an overhead view of the area from the temple 🙂

The archaeological dig at Huaca de la Luna continues…

The visit to the site was awesome, but there was still a necessary visit to the Museo Huacas de Moche – an on-site museum which was home to a number of artifacts found both at the Huaca del Sol and the Huaca de la Luna.

A view of Cerro Blanco from the museum entrance – our last glimpse of the site on our way out after a very interesting visit.

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