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Peru: Huaca Huallamarca

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Huaca Huallamarca | Peru | Americas

[Visited: September 2009]

San Isidro is a pleasant, quiet, clean, and well-organized neighbourhood of Lima. Walking around, you can come across the extensive Lima golf course, modern apartment blocks, hotels, and embassies. And then, unexpectedly, you stumble upon an odd sight. A big adobe structure, right in the middle of an ocean of buildings, with the modern elevators of a flashy hotel zooming up and down next to you, in what is a block in the city. I have arrived at the Huaca Huallamarca, an ancient pyramid of pre-Inca times. Once inside the iron gate, the guard points me to the ticket booth, and after paying a modest entrance fee, the friendly guy tells me that I can stay as long as I want.

Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Pyramid surrounded by modern San Isidro buildings

The pyramid is right in front of my eyes, under the grey skies of Lima, but since I want to learn more about it, I decide to visit the small museum dedicated to Huallamarca next to the ticket booth. Behind me, the guard starts to protest when I walk a little further - for no obvious reason, or would it be the "no entry" sign further down? The museum turns out to be a big room with some small items on display. A clear timeline places the Hualla culture between the 1st and 5th century CE, therefore, much before the arrival of the Inca's in this area. The items found in and around the pyramid are pottery, some other small artifacts, a large beautifully decorated cloth, but above all: a mummy with very long hair. You can still see the skin on her face, and her clothes are also partly intact. It surprises me: the climate of Lima does not seem favourable to conserving a body so long, as it is close to the sea and seems to have humidity in the air most of the time.

Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): A long walkway leads directly up to the main platform of the pyramid

When walking towards the Huaca Huallamarca pyramid, I visit another small room with artifacts on display, most remarkably various flutes in various shapes. Unfortunately, the room behind the entrance turns out to be completely empty. I learn that in the late 1950s, Dr. Arturo Jiménez Borja was asked to restore the ruins of a pyramid on this same spot, to save it from certain destruction in rapidly expanding and modernizing Lima. He did his job thoroughly, and the result can still be seen now. At the top of the pyramid, he found 52 tombs, and some of the items he found I just saw in the museum. The Huallas apparently also used pyramids to give a last resting place to their dead. The Incas never used this area, and the pyramid therefore was abandoned until its restoration. I walk up the wide lane leading directly to the upper platform of the multi-layered Huaca Huallamarca. Unfortunately, the other platforms cannot be visited, so I have to see the rooms (tombs?) from a distance. The flat top of the pyramid offers good views of the San Isidro neighbourhood on all sides. The inevitable question: how must the view have been in Hualla times?

Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Looking up the pyramid of Huallamarca
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Hualla mask found in the pyramid
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Mummy of Huallamarca on display in the museum
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): One of the Hualla artifacts in the museum
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Stairs on one side of the pyramid
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Pyramid of Huallamarca with different levels
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Looking up the pyramid of Huallamarca
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Modern San Isidro apartment blocks behind the pyramid
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Pyramid in close-up
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Former rooms next to the pyramid
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Part of San Isidro seen from the top of the Huallamarca pyramid
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Hualla flutes on display in the museum of Huallamarca
Picture of Huaca Huallamarca (Peru): Pan-flute of the Hualla culture

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