Nov 29, 2005

Albany and Ancient Archeology

Elizabeth comes to Albany

For a North American I grew up in an "old" city, Albany NY which has a history (Hey, you, Europeans, stop snickering) that harkens back to the original Dutch Colonists who got things started for the Europeans in 1614. I delighted in the fact that I could see elements of my hometown history stretching back almost 400 years. The discovery that this is practically brand new, as far as much of the world, has fueled my drive to travel and read up on history ever since. I can only imagine what would have happened if I grew up in Trujillo, Peru.

Map of Peru

Here the most recent arriving civilization, were those young whippersnapper Spanish Conquistadors, and even they got here in 1535 (you know, over a century before the Dutch got to my hometown.) Like they did all over they slaughtered people, horded gold, enslaved people, but did build some really lovely and livable cities.

Central Plaza of Trujillo, Peru

The Spanish convieniently conquered Trujillo by simply capturing the leader of the Inca people elsewhere. After receiving the largest ransom ever demanded (measured in huge rooms full of gold) they killed him anyway and went about lording over his vast former territory. But even the Incas, who ruled Trujillo when the Spanish got here, were the new kids on the block. Despite being considered one of the major civilizations in Latin America the Incas were only really around for barely a century (even my young country is twice as old as that!). Around 1470 they, in turn, had simply conquered the Chimu people who were already here.


The Chimu people had been settled in for a while, starting at around 1000AD doing the bulk of the work on their vast city of Chan, Chan about a century and half before. This city was enormous and complex,


...with fantastically cool ruins...


... and into clever geometric art. Like the geometric pattern below with two pelicans, and an owl depending on how you look at it.

They even had early surfers, part of what the beach neighborhood of Trujillo is now known for. They paddled out on these reed boats, sent their trained pelicans out to catch fish, and then caught a wave back in.

Early surfboards

In addition to the inevitable blond board-wielding vagabonds I´ll be that even the Chimu had history buff backpackers constantly coming through like we did. Although I doubt those ancient backpackers had the wonderfully good fortune to meet such kind and lovely locals as Tyler and I did.


... they could, however, check out some really cool ruins. Because from about 0AD-700AD, dissappearing around 300 years before the Chimu arrived, was part of the great Moche civilization who ranged all the way up Perus northern coast. Amoung other things the Moche people built two HUGE temples. But they built them like a layer cake. Whenever a high priest died they built a new, very similar, temple on top of the old one. The Spanish trashed the top layer (Grrr..) but so far they have been able to uncover five more below it.


And one great thing about building your temples in a dessert and then burying them behind a succession of adobe walls, is that your artwork is fantastically well preserved. Like this unrestored piece was on the third temple in and is at least 1500 years old.

A 1500 year old original (no restoration work!)

We haven´t even made it to Machu Pichu yet, and Peru has already has me in awestruck by archeological wonders!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:42 AM

    Hey Micah,
    I don't know if you remember me, but I came acroos reference to your website in one of my old Livejournal entries and thought I would drop by and see how things have changed. I am glad to see the adventuring spirit is still holding your soul captive.
    I wish you luck in all you do.

    -Meg M.