Mata Indio (Perou): Archaeologists seek to unveil mysteries of Mochica culture

David Blanco Bonilla

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ImagenThree gold artifacts made by the Mochica culture on display at the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru. EFE/File

A team of Peruvian archaeologists led by Walter Alva, who discovered the famous Lord of Sipan, is working to unveil the mysteries surrounding the origins of the Mochica culture, considered one of ancient Peru's most complex and developed cultures.

Archaeologists found a temple decorated with about 30 drawings and graffiti with different representations in recent weeks in the area known as Mata Indio, between the Zaña and Cayalti districts, in the northern region of Lamayeque.

"This is part of the research into the origins of the Mochica culture, considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries on the northern coast of Peru, like the Lord of Sipan," Alva told Efe.

The archaeologist, who in 1987 found the Mochica ruler's tomb, a discovery that has been compared in magnificence with Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's mummy, said researchers were now looking to resolve "the enigma of that culture's birth."

"For this reason, we are studying not just the great monuments, which belong to the Classic phase of the culture, but smaller ruins in marginal valley areas that could indicate which were the first temples and palaces," the archaeologist said.

Alva explained that the first digs in the Mata Indio zone led his team to conclude that there were small temples connecting the borders between the valleys and the desert.

"We have found signs of a structure painted in white and yellow that was later modified since it has been affected by the El Niño climate phenomenon," Alva said. "All the data we are gathering are very important to understanding what was happening on the northern coast of Peru some 1,700 to 1,800 years ago."

Archaeologist Edgar Bracamonte, who oversees field work in the area, told Efe the site belonged to a sequence of human occupations from all the cultures in the Zaña Valley.

The oldest traces, Bracamonte said, are from around 1500 B.C., and the most recent belong to the Inca culture around the year 1400.

"At the site, artifacts and items have been recovered, and the most important belong to the Mochica culture," Bracamonte said. "We have found an early temple, painted white and yellow, with some graffiti of ideological and functional appearance."

Bracamonte described the excavation's location as "an extensive site" occupying 2,500 hectares (6,700 acres), where researchers have also found stone buildings and canals, a cemetery and two mounds, with the largest yielding a temple. EFE