Peru Journal: Last day – Lima/Huaca Pucllana

July 6, 2008

We returned by plane to Lima where we were to spend the day, then board a flight to the U.S. that night. We were given a “day room” at a hotel in the Miraflores district, where we were able to keep our luggage and rest.

Today was an interesting but frustrating day. Jayme, Dale and I spent the morning at some local tourist markets – lots of mass-produced stuff at rip-off prices. Being our last day, I was very anxious to do something interesting.

Around lunch time we ran into Val and Sharon and decided to take a cab to a local restaurant that was near some ruins located in the middle of Lima. We decided to cram all 5 of us into the cab, against the driver’s wishes! He took us to the periphery of the ruins – no one was quite sure where the entrance was, and we decided to try to find a restaurant nearby, which we did.

I looked for my bag containing my wallet in order to pay for our lunch, but realized I didn’t have it with me! I must have left it at the hotel, although I could swear I had it when we left. Oh well, with my ADD brain, it was very possible I was mistaken. I worried, though, about leaving it at the hotel, exposed to getting stolen. Dale said not to worry – our room was locked up and no one would go in there. No maid service was necessary, because we hadn’t spent the night.

We walked to the site of the ruins, walking all the way around the outer wall before we finally found the entrance! I had very few coins to my name at that point (I’d been trying to use up all my Peruvian money) and had to borrow from one of the others to pay the entrance fee.

These ruins, known as Huaca Pucllana, belonged to the people known as the “Lima Culture” and remains were also found belonging to the Wari Culture, (500-900 AD) which influenced the Lima Culture in its final century.

The Lima Culture flourished along the Peruvian Central Coast during the years 200-700 AD. The Huaca Pucllana site, located in the Miraflores district in urban Lima, was built as an administrative and ceremonial center. The central pyramid, made of adobe and clay is constructed from seven platforms. It is surrounded by a plaza and a large structured wall which divides the complex into two sections, one ceremonial and one administrative.

On our guided tour, our guide explained each of the dioramas which depicted life in the Lima Culture.
On our guided tour, our guide explained each of the dioramas which depicted life in the Lima Culture.

10561058This diorama shows how the thousands of bricks used in construction were made.

The pyramid was built to express the power of the elite priests to control the natural water resources of the area, including control of the valleys of  Chancay, Chillón, Rímac and Lurín, as well as their religious domination.

The administrative sector and the urban zone were located towards the east of the surrounding wall and were probably used for public meetings, to discuss control and improvement of production. A number of small buildings, including storage rooms completed this part.

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In the ceremonial sector, including the pyramid, on the western side whose enclosure is over 500 meters in length, 100 in width and 22 in height, the priests conducted religious ceremonies honoring the gods and ancestors. Here deep pits were found in which offerings of fish and other marine life were made to appease the gods.

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Urban Lima in the distance gives a perspective of the expanse of this archaeological site.
Urban Lima in the distance gives a perspective of the expanse of this archaeological site.

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This hairless dog is apparently a regular visitor to the site!
This hairless dog is apparently a sort of mascot of the site!

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Archaeologists found many artifacts that shed light on the Lima Culture’s economy. These included textiles, decorated ceramics, bones, stone tools and remains of alpacas, guinea pigs, ducks, fish and other molluscs, corn, pumpkins, beans and fruits like cherimoya, lúcuma, pacae, guayaba. Labor included fishing, working on plantations, gathering and hunting, manufacturing of handicrafts, textiles, basketry and tools. They also constructed and maintained irrigation canals. Textiles were simple, made from alpaca or vicuna wool, and pottery included ceremonial jars decorated with snakes and fish, in black, red and white.

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1079Burial sites were also found in the pyramid, most notable of which contained remains belonging to the Wari Culture (500 AD-900 AD). Among them were the remains of the “Señor de los Unkus” (The Lord of the Unkus), which belonged to the first tomb within the ceremonial center to have been discovered completely intact. In this tomb there are three burial shrouds containing the remains of three adults and a sacrificed child.

Wari graves were subsequently destroyed by later cultures, and by the time the Incas arrived in the region, this site was already considered an “old sacred village.”

However, in October of 2010, archaeologists announced the finding of an undisturbed grave, containing 4 mummies from the Wari Culture, including an elite woman and three children.

Another interesting feature is a series of cave-like holes carved out of a section of the pyramid wall, apparently destined to be tombs of Chinese immigrants, which were also found in other sites along the coast. Those at Huaca Pucllana were presumably never used, as they appear unfinished and no remains have been found in them.

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1078Excavation was begun on the site in the middle of the 20th century,  when the top of the pyramid was exposed.   In 1991, it became a historical and cultural park, which now includes a museum , a park with native flora and fauna, a handicraft gallery, a tourist restaurant and of course, a store.

Interesting window facade of a nearby bookstore
Interesting window facade of a nearby bookstore

Upon returning to our hotel, I searched the room for my wallet, but couldn’t find it. I asked at the reception desk but nothing had been turned in (I thought maybe I’d left it in the lobby). It soon became clear that the bag containing my wallet had fallen onto the floor of the taxi and I didn’t notice because 5 of us were crammed in the back, sitting on each other’s laps.  Since it was never returned to me or to OAT, whose Lima address was included in an ID in the bag, I have to assume the annoyed taxi driver found it and kept the contents, which included quite a bit of cash. I had already exchanged my soles for U.S. $200 to give to our guide, Boris, which is what everyone else was giving him also. I had no choice but to go to an ATM and withdraw another $200 to give him. Fortunately, however, my passport was not in that bag.

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1083We spent the late afternoon at Lima’s modern mall, from which there was a splendid view of the ocean. This was our farewell to Peru. Later that night, we were on a bus to the airport and by early the next morning, we were back on U.S. soil.

This concludes my Peru Journal! I hope those who have been patient with me and followed it over the last year have found it interesting and enjoyable!

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