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The pyramid of the moon

General view of Huaca de la Luna (foreground) with the sacred mountain in the background

On my last day in Trujillo, I was taken to a magnificent site called Huaca de la Luna, or Pyramid of the Moon. This is a site built by the Moche people, so dates from the first to eighth centuries AD. The mountain was apparently sacred to them, so they built a temple right at the base of it. The spectacular thing about this temple is the astonishing preservation of the decoration.

Frieze of the God Aiapaec at Hauca de la Luna

One of the reasons that the paintings were so well preserved is that the Moche had a tendency to rebuild their temples every few generations, by enclosing the previous one in a newer, bigger temple platform that completely surrounded it. So some of the bigger “pyramids” might contain as many as seven concentric temples, one inside the other, a bit like Russian dolls. And of course, the outermost temple layer would bear the brunt of the centuries of erosion, whilst largely protecting the inner ones.

The main wall of Huaca de la Luna

This stunningly decorated wall is at the rear of the main ceremonial courtyard, forming the main wall of the temple platform. This was apparently the place where prisoners were sacrificed to the gods. The lower levels of decoration are very similar to the ones I saw a few days earlier at the temple of the Lady of Cao, except better preserved. It’s a bit difficult to see the details of the decorations in the picture above, so I’ve done some close-ups of the main bits.

Moche warriors, defeated in ritual combat, and now prisoners with a rope around their neck, being led off to be sacrificed

The victorious warriors, carrying the weapons and clothes of the ones they defeated in ritual combat

A row of priests holding hands as they watch the sacrifices

The stuff of nightmares! A double-headed spider god with a human head (on the left) and a human arm holding a knife