Dama de Cao

Continuing with the Moche, today’s expedition took me 60km north of Trujillo to a site called El Brujo. There’s only one reason to go there, and that’s to see the remains of the Dama / Senora de Cao (Lady of Cao). Until 2006, it had been assumed that only men could be Moche governors (like the Lord of Sipan I saw earlier in the trip). But no, here they found a woman who, from the objects found with her, had clearly been a governor in her own right.

Once again, photos weren’t allowed in the museum so I’ve had to pinch some from the internet.

The Dama de Cao dates to around 450AD, so not quite as old as the Senor de Sipan.

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We saw all the items shown in the image in the museum.

She was only in her early twenties when she died. The big difference between the Dama de Cao and the Senor de Sipan is that whereas the Senor de Sipan himself is pretty much a pile of bones, the Dama de Cao is remarkably well preserved. She was washed in salt water and covered in mercury sulphide, which stopped bacteria from decomposing the body. She was also buried at just the right height in the pyramid – high enough to be able to dry out (the pyramid is right by the sea) but far enough down not to have been found by looters. She still has intact skin showing tattoos of serpents, spiders and other creatures, and even hair and nails!

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Unfortunately the on-site museum is very small and so in addition to the mummy itself, they can only display a small fraction of the bling found in the tomb. Overall, the jewellery was much more tasteful than that of the Lord of Sipan. You really could wear most of the necklaces and earrings to go to the pub without anyone batting an eyelid (as long as you only wore one set at once!). The nose rings would be another matter, but again they were much more dainty and tasteful than those of the Lord of Sipan (and not a comedy moustache in sight).

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The pyramid itself, Huaca Cao Viejo, was very similar to the Huaca de la Luna I saw yesterday, with almost identical reliefs of prisioners, warriors, dancers, battles, and the Decapitator God in the exact same positions on the facade (though nowhere near as well preserved as at Huaca de la Luna).

I did take a few photos of the place where the Dama de Cao was found and some of the different paintings/reliefs found there.

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