Floodings, draughts and the melting of the ice caps; some think that climate change is a problem only facing our generation, but it is actually thought to have affected ancient civilizations as well (albeit for different reasons). On my recent visit to Trujillo I was surprised to find out how climate change may have even wiped out an entire civilization.

Trujillo is Peru’s third largest city and is in the north of Peru. It is a colonial city with a historic center that boasts many colourful buildings. While the centre is very pretty what really caught my attention was not the centre, but a site 5km outside of the city.huaca de la luna Trujillo plaza de armas 2huaca de la luna trujillohuaca de la luna Trujillo cathedral at nighthuaca de la luna Trujillo plaza de armas at nightThe complex of Huaca del Moche which consists of Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and Moon) is believed to have been the capital of the Moche culture. It was built over many years between 400 and 600AD by more than 200,000 workers. Sadly, Huaca del Sol cannot be visited currently, but it is an impressive site that can be seen from the nearby Huaca de la Luna. The Temple of the Sun is a pyramid and what can be seen today is only 30 percent of the original construction. It is believed that the pyramid used to contain between 50-140 million adobe blocks.

huaca de la luna as it was

What Huaca del Sol used to look like

huaca de la luna view of huaca del sol now

What Huaca del Sol looks like now with the remains of the pyramid in the background

trujillo huaca de la luna adobe

Some of the millions of adobe blocks used to build the city

Huaca de la Luna, the other temple nearby, is open to the public and is thought to have been a ritual and ceremonial centre. What you see today is also only a part of a large complex adorned with lavishly painted friezes. The friezes mostly show the face of Ai-Apaec surrounded by symbols representing natural spirits, such as the ray fish, pelicans and serpents. Ai-Apaec was also known as the master of life and death and so to please him he was given regular human sacrifices. In 1995, some 70 skeletons were found on the grounds of Huaca de la Luna. The skeletons were of adult males between the ages of 15 and 39. They are thought to have been warriors that had been killed either by having their throats slit or skulls fractured.

Trujillo Huaca de la luna pyramid

Only a small part of the otherwise huge Huaca de la Luna

huaca de la luna wall

Trujillo huaca de la luna wall

The Ai-Apaec God

Trujillo huaca de la luna mask

So why were so many humans sacrified? The Moche culture was a peaceful civilization that lived between 100 and 800AD. They were experts in agriculture and used very sophisticated irrigation methods. Yet, somehow, their civilization disappeared. Sediments found in the graves of the 70 warriors indicate that the sacrifices took place during an El Niño weather phenomenon that bought 30 years of flooding, followed by 30 years of drought.

For a society that relied on complex agriculture to survive this was a natural disaster they couldn’t cope with, as it threatened the economic and political stability of the nation. Human sacrifices no longer worked, people were starving and chaos ensued. It is thought that civil war broke out which eventually bought an end to a highly developed ancient society, which begs the question: is this so different to what is happening to our planet at the moment?

Trujillo HUaca de la luna city

Have you ever been to a place that was affected by changes in climate, either recently or in the distant past?

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

10 Thoughts on “The mystery around Huaca de la Luna – How climate change destroyed an entire civilization

  1. Fascinating! I really love learning about ancient societies. It’s incredible how climate changes wiped out whole communities and cities back then. And, it does make one think about what’s going on now. I’ve been living in Jakarta for over two months and it’s only rained three times. It’s kind of an anomaly in the tropics…
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 15, 2014 at 9:23 am said:

      Wow, Jakarta used to suffer from floodings and now it only rained three times? That is crazy. Where I live in Arequipa it hardly rained at all in the last rainy season too.

  2. Annie gilson on October 14, 2014 at 6:39 am said:

    Your explaining method is quite different as general guidelines. Thanks much!

  3. Very interesting! I’ve never heard of this place before, but intriguing how they could have gone through something that sort of echoes what we are going through right now. 30 years of flooding and 30 years of drought would have been extremely tough so I can only imagine what they would have gone through!
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 18, 2014 at 8:10 am said:

      I know, it must have been terrible. Even when there is only a week of flooding these days there seems to be chaos, so I can’t even imagine what it must have been like back then.

  4. Wow very intersting… Beutifully written and as you have rightly put up this question “is this so different to what is happening to our planet at the moment?”

  5. Very interesting! I had never heard of this place either, but I couldn’t imagine going through that! It does kind of open one’s eyes to what’s going on now, huh?
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 30, 2014 at 10:36 am said:

      Thanks Ashley! It really made me think about how conflicts these days and climate change are linked actually. Definitely food for thought…

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