Better Stop for the Captivating Museums in Lambayeque

We meet so many overlanders who drive the Pan-American Highway, and pass straight through Lambayeque, unaware of what this region has to offer. On the other hand, we purposely returned to Lambayeque because we remembered (from our last trip ) the captivating museums and archaeological sites this northern part of Peru has to offer.

With this post I would like to encourage all travellers to stop in Lambayeque and visit some of the highlights. The region was part of the extensive Moche (or Mochica) culture, a sophisticated society that dominated the coastal area in northern Peru between 100 and 700AD. Almost all museums in Peru (and many all over the world) feature extensive collections of the Moche’s finely worked pottery and gold adornments – yet their original homeland in the Lambayeque province is sadly neglected by too many travellers.

Most of their social and religious centres were constructed from adobe bricks, layer upon layer. These mud structures suffered from wind and water erosion, hence there are not as many well preserved sights to see as in other regions where people built with rocks. But they also kept the Moche treasures well hidden.

Often bypassed by travellers, it's actually worth stopping at Lambayeque in northern Peru to visit its two captivating museums and many archaeological sites!

Often bypassed by travellers, it’s actually worth stopping at Lambayeque in northern Peru to visit its two captivating museums and many archaeological sites!

Yet, the richest burial tomb of all the Americas was discovered not far from Lambayeque. This incredibly untouched tomb was discovered in 1987; the main excavations took 20 years to complete! To display the treasures from this burial site, a special museum was built in Lambayeque.


Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum

This is a very unique and captivating museum. It’s built in the shape of a pyramid, similar to the tomb. You enter from the top and follow the stairs down into the base of the pyramid. This design emulates the layers in which the original tomb was unearthed, and displays many of the well-preserved artefacts in the order they were discovered.

Apart from the outstanding finely crafted jewellery, the most interesting displays are those which show photographs from the original dig next to each other; life-size reconstructions of the tomb layers; and glass vitrines filled with the discovered artefacts. For example, some side chambers have been filled with hundreds of pottery vessels.

This reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán holding court is located in a side room of the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

This reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán holding court is located in a side room of the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. Image Credit

One of the displayed fine jewellery and a gold masks at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

One of the displayed fine jewellery and a gold masks at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

One of a pair of finely worked ear studs at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. Original size is ~7-8cm.

One of a pair of finely worked ear studs at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. Original size is ~7-8cm.

 

The importance of the Lord of Sipán can easily be imagined by the sheer number of treasures and companions he was buried with. The archaeologists found layer upon layer of gold adornments and jewellery above the body, and many more layers below – truly fascinating!

All of this makes the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum is well worth a visit, even though you are not allowed to take photos inside.

A reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán burial tomb.

A reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán burial tomb. Image Wikimedia Commons

More about the Moche culture on Wikipedia .


Museo Regional Arqueológico Enrique Brüning de Lambayeque

If you like to take photos of pre-columbian treasures, then visit the Brüning Museum in Lambayeque. This museum houses the private collection of the German born ethnologist Hans Heinrich Brüning, which was acquired by the Peruvian government in 1924.

The collection contains over 12,000 pre-Hispanic artefacts. Of course, not all are on display, but you will find over 500 pieces in the gold room alone. I could imagine that you’ll be so captivated by the quality of the collection that you will find plenty to photograph.

One of the many captivating pieces at the Brüning museum in Lambayeque: a beautiful gold mask. These usually covered the head of buried dignitaries.

One of the many captivating pieces at the Brüning museum in Lambayeque: a beautiful gold mask. These usually covered the head of buried dignitaries.

This pottery vessel at the Brüning museum shows how well the craft of the Moche civilisation was developed. Most Moche pottery can be distinguished by a horseshoe shaped handle. On this piece the typical handle has been very much flattened...

This pottery vessel at the Brüning museum shows how well the craft of the Moche civilisation was developed. Most Moche pottery can be distinguished by a horseshoe shaped handle. On this piece the typical handle has been very much flattened…

More about Brüning Museum on Wikipedia .


Practical Information

You can easily visit both museums in one day. They are only a few blocks apart. After our last visit we came to the conclusion that it feels like a far better progression to visit the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum after the Brüning Museum!

We would recommend that you also choose accommodation in Lambayeque; we found nearby Chiclayo a noisy, dirty, smelly city – not an inviting place to stay.

Lambayeque makes a good base to visit other sights around the town, among them:

  • Túcume to the north: the largest complex of pyramids in the world. These were all constructed from adobe bricks, so nowadays they don’t look quite as pretty as stone pyramids elsewhere. More information.
  • Huaca Rajada is located to the south-east: this is where the original tomb of the lord of Sipán was discovered. It has another new on-site museum, which looks very interesting.
Remains of the pyramids in the valley of Túcume. This is the world's largest pyramid site, but unfortunately the mud brick structures didn't survive the wind and rain erosion very well.

Remains of the pyramids in the valley of Túcume. This is the world’s largest pyramid site, but unfortunately the mud brick structures didn’t survive the wind and rain erosion very well.

iPeru, the country’s official tourist information, has a stall outside the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum. Their information is usually thorough and correct, and each office tends to have one person who speaks English. This could be a good place to ask questions about visiting the surrounding sites.


TIP: don’t be fooled by the English language signs on the top floor of the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum; unfortunately they don’t continue further down. If you don’t speak (or read) Spanish it might be a good idea to take a guide [/S 35 at time of writing, early 2017]. The guides there at the same time as us, did seem to rush through the exhibition a little. We like to take a slower pace and have more time to digest all information…
Lambayeque in northern Peru is often bypassed by travellers. We believe this is a big mistake as you can find two really captivating museums in town. The region features many interesting archaeological sites of the ancient, highly developed Moche culture (100-700AD).

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Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with nearly 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

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