Archaeologists excavating Huaca El Loro in Poma, near the city of Chiclayo in northern Peru, found a 1,000 year-old Tallán mummy, wearing a distinctive headdress, facemask and chest plate and surrounded by gold and silver ornaments, buried in a lavish Sicán tomb.
According to the leading archeologist at the excavations, Izumi Shimada, the 1,000 year-old remains, found covered by a large gold, silver and copper Sicán mask adorned with 25-centimeter-wide eyes and alongside three other bodies, belong to a Tallán nobleman.
“This person was probably the leader of a group that was integrated into Sicán society,” said Shimada. “It would have been an honor for him to be buried in the Lambayeque Kingdom’s capital.”
This discovery is fundamental, Shimada added, because it proves the Sicán had close contact and relationships with other cultures and ethnic groups. The Tallan people, expert potters, came from the Piura region further north.
The Sicán culture is one of several groups of goldsmiths who predated the Inca and flourished in Peru’s Lambayeque region. They are known for their lost-wax casting in gold ornament production, and the production of arsenical copper, which is the closest material to bronze found in prehistoric New World archaeology. The Sicán were most likely descendants of the Moche, and were involved in long-distance trade for emeralds and amber.
Although geographically within the same area of northern Peru, Sicán flourished long after the Moche civilization and the famous Lord of Sipan, who died around 290 AD. The Huaca El Loro is within a forest of carob trees, in the Pomac Historical Sanctuary.
The history of the Sicán is divided into three distinct periods: Early Sicán from 750-900 AD, Middle Sicán from 900-110 AD, and Late Sicán,from 1100-1375 AD.
The Tallán nobleman buried at Huaca El Loro dates back to the Middle Sicán Age, which is known for its elite funeral traditions. Tombs were typically packed with treasures, ritually sacrificed individuals, and were dug as much as 10 meters deep before being refilled with sand.
Shimada, a distinguished professor at Southern Illinois University, has been working at Sican sites since 1990 when he was with the University of Tokyo. In 2006, his project uncovered the first traces of the elite cemetery at Huaca El Loro.