7/5/13 Trip to El Brujo and the Lady of Cao
I was really looking forward to today’s trip as it was to the Pyramid of the Witch Doctors (shamans) and the Lady of Cao – the first female Moche ruler. Our guide yesterday had told me how the site is still used today by Witch Doctors from Peru, Ecuador and Columbia to perform shamanic rituals. In the past witch doctors went to the pyramid to boost their healing powers as the site was known to be a place of powerful energies. Great stuff!
Imagine then my disappointment when after an hour travelling north through barren desert scenery only broken by areas of sugar cane plantations we finally reached the El Brujo Archaeological site and were told we weren’t going to the pyramid! Gutted!! Allegedly the site is being worked on by archaeologists so it is closed to the public but I would have thought they could have at least driven up to it. I think we were somewhat mislead by the write up on this trip.
So it was off to the see the Pyramid where the Lady of Cao’s grave was discovered. This is another Moche pyramid
but only has 4 levels, again one built each 100 years and again very eroded. This is partly due to the lack of funds and sadly the large outer wall’s murals have lost a lot of their colour since being found as it wasn’t until 5 years ago that a canvas roof was added to protect them.
The pyramid faces the sea – important in this culture but the Mountain God is still the main deity and is depicted with waves around his head.
The Lady of Cao is the first and only female Moche ruler to have been found. The grave goods found with her include 2 staffs – the symbol of power, as well as nose ring plates, crowns and head dresses all of which show her status. She also has elaborate snake and spider tattoos on her arms and hands which are still visible – this may indicate that she had shamanic powers.
Her body was wrapped in 27 cloth mantles with metal ornaments interspersed between the layers. She was only 25 when she died and it is believed that she died from childbirth. The decorations on various pieces of pottery plus the analysis
of her skeleton have led to these conclusions. The murals of the Mountain God around the grave site also show his body which is in the stance used by women to give birth at this time and this is the only place where he is depicted in this form. Her body was dipped in mercury before being buried deep under the layers of mud bricks and earth so has been very well preserved.
Once again the pyramid was the site of ritual sacrifice, skeletons of men who had been sacrificed were found, some of them facing the sea ready for re-birth. The friezes on the outer wall show the naked losers of ritual combat being led away for sacrifice, with high ranking losers being carried by the others in litters. They are followed by the winners who are carrying the losers clothing, weapons and ornaments.
After sacrifice the priest would appear on top of the pyramid with the cup of sacrificial blood to show to the crowds who could gather in the outer courtyard below. The blood may have been drunk by the priests or ruler or poured onto the earth to continue the flow of life.
The museum was interesting, showing pottery and cloth from each of the civilisations that lived in this area. They also had a film recreating the ritual fights and sacrifice. Then behind two black curtains was a room which contained all the contents of the Lady of Cao’s tomb. It was very similar to the Lord of Sipan’s only less items and the metal work was mainly copper and silver.
The fabric she was wrapped in looked virtually perfect, the pattern and colouring was so clear – amazing! Her skeleton was displayed and her arm tattoos were clearly visible and she still had her long hair.
So an interesting visit but it would perhaps have been better to have done this trip first as the site was not as extensive or as impressive as the other ones we have seen, ah well hindsight is a marvellous thing!
Still gutted about the Witch Doctor Pyramid though!!
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