Every archaeologist dreams of finding a place like Huaca Rajada. Forgotten in the desert for over 1,700 years, Huaca Rajada was a sacred burial site for Moche nobility and royalty. When local looters in 1987 were found with lavish gold artifacts, it tipped off police that a large discovery might be buried in the nearby desert. An archaeologist, Walter Alva, was called to the site to examine the possibility that other tombs might exist, and when his team unearthed the “Lord of Sipan” and his tomb of jewels and gold, it was heralded as the greatest discovery of the last 50 years of archaeology.
Today, travelers can visit the archaeological site where excavations are still taking place. Though many of the larger artifacts and displays have been moved to Chiclayo museums (notably the Royal Tombs Museum of Sipan and the Brüning National Archaeological Museum), there is still a small museum on site that displays some of the findings. Of particular interest are the re-created tombs that show the position the Lord of Sipan was found in after having been buried over 1,700 years ago.
In addition to the extravagant headdresses and jewelry, the tomb contained the remains of a priest, a child, a llama, two dogs, three concubines and a guard who was buried without feet. This, archaeologists say, is meant to symbolize the guard’s inability to ever flee from his post, and it’s just one of the many tales of lore which lay buried in the sands of Sipan.
The Huaca Rajada Museum site is located close to the city of Sipan, 20 minutes from downtown Chiclayo. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and there is an entrance fee of 8 Nuevo Soles ($2.75).