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5 October 2012 / leggypeggy

An upside-down moon in Peru

Moon Temple

Detail of Moon Temple

Just when you think you’ve seen one temple too many, you come upon something like the Moon Temple near Trujillo in Peru.

This temple/shrine and its accompanying Sun Temple are known, respectively, in Spanish as the Huaca de la Luna and the Huaca del Sol. Together they make up the Huacas de Moche, and are part of an ancient Moche capital city.

The two temples are separated by a sandy, flat expanse, which was where the original city sat. Researchers think the Moon Temple (which is smaller) was for ceremonies and religious occasions, while the Sun Temple was important for administration, military, elite residences and such.

Sun Temple

Looking from Moon Temple to Sun Temple

Of course, we’ll never know for sure, but what we do know is that the Moon Temple is five temples in one. They’re like upside-down building blocks.

The first temple was superseded, filled in with mud bricks, then topped with a larger temple of the same proportions. This happened three more times with each upper temple becoming larger and larger.

Centuries ago, the looters cleaned out the Sun Temple. They also got the goodies from of level five of the Moon Temple. But they weren’t curious or energetic enough, and everything below that top level has survived—up to a point.

Our guide, who was excellent, explained that level four is going to remain the main source of knowledge in relation to Huaca de la Luna. There are little glimpses of level three, but to really investigate the lower temples would mean destroying the ones above.

Moon Temple

Exterior of level four of Moon Temple

So we’ll have to settle for level four for now. But what an easy thing to look at. The artwork, detail, symbolism and variety on this level are enough to blow you away. I could have spent days exploring this temple—and what a bargain at less that $4 for admission.

I won’t go into the grisly details, but it pretty clear that the Moon Temple played a part in sacrifices. The Moche thought they had to appease the gods with human blood, so many a battle was fought to capture prisoners as sacrifices.

Some of the murals show chain/rope gangs of prisoners being led by the victors. Of course, the murals are fading and deteriorating, but you can still appreciate how striking this temple must have looked in days gone by. I was surprised to see how strong the colours still are—with plenty of black, red, blue, white and yellow visible. Our guide was so cute. She certainly knew how to build up suspense and anticipation as she introduced each new part of the temple. And her English was excellent. And there was no charge for her services—just a tip—and I tipped her well.

P.S. We also visited the Museum of the Huacas de Moche, but no photos were allowed.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Potsie / Oct 5 2012 4:00 pm

    I’ve read of this temple and envy you and PJ having seen it. It must be magnificent.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 5 2012 10:52 pm

      It really is breathtaking. The guide kept saying ‘wait until you see the outside’ after everything thing we saw, and we thought ‘it can’t get better than it is’ but it does!


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