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  Cerro Sechín
    From Casma, we were able to view some Initial Period sites, including Cerro Sechín, Sechín Alto, Chanquillo, and Pampa de las Llamas. Cerro Sechín is the small square-shaped site with battle scenes carved into the exterior of its stone walls. These gruesome scenes included decapitations, amputations, bodies cut apart at the torso, victorious warriors, trophy heads, and more. The site coincides with Sechín Alto, but the large Pampa de las Llamas site was also a force in the Casma Valley at the same time. The mystery of Cerro Sechín is whether the carvings are religious or whether the site is a battle memorial. If it is a memorial, then who were the victors and losers? At this time, only three of four walls are excavated, and the structures within those walls also need to be excavated.
 
 
 
 

Chanquillo
    The site of Chanquillo, perched on a small hill in the middle of the desert, consisted of three massive stone wall rings around a small ceremonial center in the middle. The walls were constructed so that if you went in one doorway, you had to walk halfway around the outer circle to pass through the next wall, and so on. Thus, the site was easily defended and access easily restricted. From conversations with an astronomical archeologist working at the adjacent site, from the same time period, we learned that Chanquillo, the buildings below, the thirteen steps, and more buildings on the far side of the steps, are all likely related as one large site. Lines could be drawn from the centers of the circles on Chanquillo, through the steps, to corners or rooms in buildings below such that they aligned with important lunar and solar events. I do not believe this is a case where something is conveniently being made of coincidences, since all the construction seemed very similar… loosely fitted stones occasionally supported by wooden planks. It will be interesting if the archeological team there is successful in using dendrochronology to date the site. Regardless, the thirteen steps are a series of rock mounds built on a low ledge beneath Chanquillo. Each of them has a small staircase one can use to climb to the top, and they have never been accurately dated.

 
 
 
 

Pampa de las Llamas
    Huaca A, Moxeke, the intermediate mounds, and surrounding structures combine to make Pampa de las Llamas, and intriguing Initial Period site with a powerful corporate authority. Huaca A is a mound built of stone with several levels of symmetrical storage rooms rising up from the center of the mound. As one goes upwards and inwards, access is more and more restricted. Curiously, square spaces were converted to have rounded corners, wasting the space between the curve and the corner. Also interesting, the line of symmetry for Huaca A points directly at the center of Moxeke, a large temple mound. Intermediate mounds, composed of rooms of similar size and shape as the ones on Huaca A, flank a large plaza between the two large mounds. Opposite the side of Moxeke from Huaca A, a sunken circular court has been lost to the last El Niño. The evidence for a strong corporate authority, especially for Initial Period times, is the sheer amount of workforce it would take to build two mounds of that size out of stone, in addition to the extremely restricted access on Huaca A, and the social stratification between the people who ruled from the mounds, the people who lived in the intermediate mounds nearby, and the common people.

 
 
 
 

Sechín Alto
    Finally, we came to visit Sechín Alto, one of the largest mound structures yet. Also from the Initial Period, Sechín Alto's core was constructed of large cone-shaped adobe bricks, possibly in the shape of a cross. On top and surrounding this, the rest of the mound was built with stones, similar to Pampa de las Llamas and Chanquillo. Personally, I think the core could be any number of shapes, and archeologists have just happened to discover sections that apply to a cross-shape. Either way, little work has been done there, and archeologists had just found a midden associated with the structure this summer. To further confuse matters, the top of Sechín Alto has been occupied by other cultures after the Initial Period. Either way, it remains a testament to the wealth of the Casma Valley in Initial Period Peru.

 
 
 
©2002 Joseph Holler - jholler1@ithaca.edu