Sipán is a Moche archaeological site in northern Peru that is famous for the tomb of El Señor de Sipán (Lord of Sipán), excavated by Walter Alva and his wife Susana Meneses. It is considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the last 30 years, because the main tomb was found intact and undisturbed by thieves. Tombs were found in Sipán's Huaca Rajada, an area near Chiclayo. Many huaca were found showing Moche jewelry, masks, and art. The tomb of the Lord of Sipan has been dated to around 100 AD.
The tombs in the area are of adobe construction, of pyramidal shape, now eroded by successive El Niño events. Excavations continue. A mock-up of the Lord of Sipan's tomb, complete with replica head-dress, breastplates and other grave goods, is open to visitors. A reconstruction of the Lord of Sipan in his regalia is on view in the Archaeological Museum of Lima, Peru.
It is believed that, as with ancient Egyptians, the people placed grave goods, including the remains of servants, to ensure survival of the elite into the afterlife. Also discovered were hundreds of small clay pots with individual faces, understood to be offerings made by the lord's subjects.
Several dozens of such Moche tombs likely existed at one time, but almost all known tombs on the coast of Peru have been looted. This looting has occurred since at least the Spanish colonial period. Documented colonial mining laws stipulated how "looting rights" were to be determined. In modern times, the government has declared looting illegal, although it is still widely practiced. The archaeological sites are so numerous that law enforcement numbers are often insufficient to protect them.
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