National Geographic : 1990 Jun
Chepen (following pages) sprawls across a 1,500-foot-high mountain above the town of Chepen. Girded by massive stone ramparts 12 feet wide at the base and rising as high as 27 feet, the structure is a thousand years older than Machu Picchu, the Inca ruins near Cuzco in southern Peru. The Moche fortress contains the ruins of what may be a palace, at center, and other buildings with hun dreds of rooms. Although never excavated, Cerro Chepen has aroused the curiosity of the few archaeolo gists who have seen it and mar veled at the effort demanded to build the fortress. Its build ings show a capacity for a gar rison of about 5,000. "There is information here that will change our perspective on Moche militarism," says Guillermo Cock. Since there is no water at the site, porters had to climb the steep hillside carrying heavy jugs of water, as well as chicha, for the work force. The people in the surrounding valley must have been rich indeed, with a surplus of food and labor, to have built such a fortress. Commanding a view that stretched for miles to the north and south as well as from the Andes to the sea, the fortress enabled lookouts to spot any one approaching. Perhaps Cerro Chepen was the main station in a chain of lookout posts on the mountains along the northern coast.