Huaca Rajada (Cracked Pyramid, tel. 074/80-0048, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$2.50), about 28 kilometers east of Chiclayo, is the original tomb site where the remains of the Señor de Sipán were discovered. The tombs have been decorated with replicas of the original findings and offer a comprehensive understanding of what archaeologist Walter Alva discovered when he excavated these 12 Moche tombs. Close by there is a small museum with photos from the 1987–1989 excavations. The artifacts Alva recovered are currently housed at the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán
South of the tombs there are two pyramids, built by the Moche around A.D. 300 that today look like clay mountains, along with a lower platform, about 120 meters long, where huaqueros plundered before they were caught.
The pyramids are composed of argamasa, an adobe mixture that includes water, earth, seashells, ceramic fragments, llama dung, small stones, and algarrobo branches. This mixture sat for 20 days before being put in cane molds and baked in the sun. The pyramid itself was built in huge, separate blocks of bricks in order to allow shifting, and prevent cracking, during an earthquake.
It is possible to climb to the top of the largest pyramid for a good view of the surrounding fields and the village of Sipán, a community of sugarcane workers who protested Alva’s excavations and continue to feel resentful that their town has received so little financial benefit from all of Sipán’s riches. The town received electricity only in 2001, and there is a long-delayed proposal to install running water and sewerage.
Five police and an archaeologist are stationed full time to protect the pyramids, which have not yet been excavated, and the platform, which, according to archaeologist Julio Chero is 75 percent excavated.
Getting to Huaca Rajada
To efficiently include Huaca Rajada in a full day of sightseeing, it is best to take a guided tour from Chiclayo. If taking public transport, start early in the day, as there are no places to stay in Sipán. Buses to Sipán leave from the Terminal de Epsel at the corner of Avenida Oriente and Nicolás de Pierola in Chiclayo. From there it is a short walk to the ruins, where Spanish-speaking guides can be contracted.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition