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Culture — Ancient Cultures of Latin America – Part II

by Brandi

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April 5th, 2010

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We will continue on from last week’s Spanish lesson and further explore more about ancient cultures of Latin America.  As have mentioned before, I had the opportunity to live in Perú, South America for an extended period of time. In my opinion, as with parts of Mexico, Perú is a mecca for ancient American ruins. This week and next, I will be sharing information about some of the fascinating ruins I have visited personally.

The cultural tidbit I would like to focus on this week comes from a ruin called “El Señor de Sipan” (The Lord of Sipan.) It is an incredible ruin that sheds light on some of the culture and beliefs of the ancient Pre-Inca people of South America (from about 1700 years ago.)

As I visited this site, the tour guide gave us some interesting information about its discovery. Apparently some grave robbers had found this site (a “huaca” [wah-cah] or ancient burial tomb) and began to excavate. They had excavated quite a lot when authorities found them and stopped their illegal efforts. Then an authorized excavation team continued to dig; they excavated one foot further down than the grave robbers had gone and found the tomb of the Lord of Sipan. 

It contained all types of artifacts, gold and otherwise, in an impressive display of ancient America. The guide explained to us that the artifacts had been taken to a museum where they could be safeguarded. Inside the uncovered tomb were replicas of the original artifacts.

Our guide explained that when this Pre-Inca Lord died and was buried, his worldly goods and provisions were buried with him, as well as his wife and two other women, assumed to be wives, buried alive. They were all put into the tomb so they could accompany “El Señor de Sipan” to the afterlife.

Also found in the tomb were small clay pots that contained food so the occupants would have food to eat in the afterlife. “El Señor de Sipan” and his people seem to have been religious people as indicated by their belief in having food for the afterlife.

Now, one of the most interesting details to me was the fact that half of the tomb was excavated and the other half of the tomb (see arrow above) hasn’t even been touched. According to our guide, the government doesn’t have enough money to excavate the complete tomb; it has been that way for many years. The sad part is that many Latin American countries have so many incredible ruins but don’t have the funds to do anything with them. When I lived in Perú, many native Peruvians referred to Perú as a goldmine with a beggar sitting on top. It has become such a well-known metaphor that I saw many pictures of goldmines with beggars sitting on top, while I lived in different cities of Perú.

As we open our eyes to the culture and history of the world, we learn more about humanity, and a part of our existence becomes more complete.

Please visit our website to learn more about Spanish culture and Spanish words.

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