Túcume, the final capital of the Sicán culture, is 35 kilometers along the the old Panamericana from Chiclayo. Archaeologists believe that Túcume was built after the Sicán burnt and abandoned their former capital of Batán Grande around A.D. 1050.
The most stunning thing about Túcume is the landscape, which can be best seen from a lookout on Cerro Purgatorio—a huge desert mountain rising in the midst of 26 eroded adobe pyramids scattered throughout 200 hectares of surrounding bosque seco. There is a powerful energy to the place, especially at dawn and dusk, which is probably why the Sicán chose it in the first place and why many shamanic rituals continue here today (notice all the makeshift hearths for ceremonies).
As at Batán Grande, there is not much here in the way of murals or reliefs, though many have been found here. The last major excavation was undertaken here between 1989 and 1994 by the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, who spent much of his life in this area. What excavations continue are closed to the public.
Walking around these huge pyramids can make for interesting viewing—the Huaca Larga is an astonishing 700 meters long, 280 meters wide, and 30 meters tall. The area is commonly referred to as the Valle de las Pirámides, which is easy to understand from the lookout on Cerro Purgatorio, which offers a view over the entire complex.
Archaeologists believe the pyramids, like the Huacas de la Luna y Sol outside Trujillo, are superimposed structures built in phases. These pyramids were probably inhabited by priests and rulers even after waves of conquest (and new construction) by the Chimú in 1375 and the Inca in 1470. Atop Huaca Larga, for instance, archaeologists have uncovered a Chimú Temple of the Mythical Bird from around 1375 with an even newer Inca tomb, built of stone from Cerro Purgatorio, on top. The heavily adorned, and scarred, body inside the tomb was apparently a warrior who was buried with two other men and 19 women between the ages of 10 and 30.
There is a small site museum (9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily, tel. 074/80-0052, US$2.50) that is uninteresting except for a series of outlandish, wall-sized cartoons that trace Western history, somehow combining the medieval Crusades and the Gutenberg press with the winged disappearance of Naymlap. For those who want to linger and soak in the place—or use it as a base for visiting Chiclayo’s surrounding ruins—there is an excellent hotel nearby, Los Horcones.
Getting to Túcume
To get local transport to Túcume, you have to get to Lambayeque first by taking a combi at Vicente de la Vega and Leonardo Ortiz, in front of the Otursa bus terminal in Chiclayo. Frequent combis run to Túcume from in front of Lambayeque’s market, 2.5 blocks from Museo Tumbas Reales. From the town of Túcume, it is another 3.5 kilometers to the ruins, either a 15-minute walk or a US$0.75 motocar ride.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition