National Geographic : 1947 Apr
Finding the Tomb of a Warrior-God BY WILLIAM DUNCAN STRONG Loubat Professor of American Archeology, Columbia University, and Chairman, Institute of Andean Research, 1946 With Illustrationsfrom Photographs by Clifford Evans, Jr., Research Assistant, Columbia University IN THE Viru Valley of Peru some ten cen turies ago dwelt a living god, a warrior priest venerated by the Mochica people who developed a brilliant civilization on the northern coast when Europe was deep in the Dark Ages. Last June, on the final day of our field work, we were fortunate enough to dis cover his tomb. This editorial "we" represents the 1946 Columbia University Archeological Expedi tion to Peru, including the writer, his wife, and his assistant, Clifford Evans, Jr., who as a bombardier officer had been blown out of his plane 25,600 feet over Hamburg and less than a year before had been released from a prison camp in Germany. Now back in our own chosen study-the history of man through the millennia-we were finding a lot to learn and much to unlearn in Peru. New light was being shed upon the life of the vanished Mochica, who, our explorations now proved, flourished much later than had been thought. We knew at last that the pe riod of their ascendency marked not the be ginning of native civilization on the north coast of Peru, but rather its apparently brief but very brilliant flowering in the period be tween the Gallinazo culture, which has left us ruins of great adobe castles, and the rise of the Tiahuanaco and Chimu civilizations.* Preserved in the dry soil we found intact not only examples of the splendid art work of the Mochica but some of the actual food they ate and pottery representations of their deer hunting, drinking bouts, warriors, and gods. The climax was the resurrection of old Ai apaect himself, one of the last of the Mochica warrior-priests, who had represented in his person the great-fanged feline deity of ancient Peru and was buried with the body of a sacrificed boy beside him (Plate I). Dead City Covers 11 Square Miles After the downfall of the Mochica there arose the Tiahuanaco civilization and the coastal empire of the Chimu kings, who, in the middle of the 15th century, dominated the northern coast of Peru from the towering Andes to the blue Pacific Ocean. The capital of this coastal empire was the city of Chan-Chan in the Moche Valley. The ruins of that great dead city cover 11 square miles, and the many carefully planned high walled compounds, the reservoirs, the intri cate irrigation patterns, and the temple mounds, even in their present ruinous state, bespeak a very highly organized and estheti cally advanced government (page 462). After flourishing for several centuries, how ever, the Chimu Empire and its capital were conquered by an even greater native Ameri can empire, that of the Incas. But in turn the Incas themselves were caught in the intri cate web of history, and their dominance was as brief as it was brilliant.$ In 1532 a small but intrepid army of Span iards under Francisco Pizarro landed on the northwestern tip of Peru, and within two years the empire of the Incas followed that of the Chimu, and the still earlier kingdom of the Mochica, into oblivion. Each of these great pre-Columbian empires and kingdoms left far more than their exten sive ruins, for many of the people of each survived and blended, and today their de scendants form the larger part of the popu lation of modern Peru. Six Expeditions Focus on One Valley It was this continuity of very ancient and modern civilizations that led to the selection of the Viru Valley as the scene of a unique program in 1946. The Viru Valley Project of that year was organized by the Institute of Andean Re search, made up of North American and Peruvian scholars representing numerous uni versities, museums, and similar scientific * See "Air Adventures in Peru," by Robert Shippee, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January, 1933, and "Heart of Aymara Land (Tiahuanaco)," by Stewart E. McMillin, February, 1927. SPronounced "Eye a peak." t See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "In cas: Empire Builders of the Andes," by Philip Ains worth Means, February, 1938; "Story of Machu Picchu: The Peruvian Expeditions of the National Geographic Society and Yale University," February, 1915, and "Further Explorations in the Land of the Incas," May 1916, both by Hiram Bingham; and "Pith of Peru," by Henry Albert Phillips, August, 1942.