The Watch

Cerro Sechín

Casma, Ancash, Peru

2014 World Monuments Watch

Cerro Sechín is one of the oldest coastal Andean civilizations in Peru.  It is part of an archipelago of archaeological centers in the Casma Valley that include Sechín Alto, Sechín Bajo, Manchan, Chankillo, and others located in close proximity to the Pan-American Highway. Located 168 miles (260 kilmoeters) north of Lima at the foot of the Sechín River in the Casma Valley, the ceremonial center was discovered in 1937 by Julio C. Tello, the father of Peruvian archaeology. Early excavations at the ceremonial site uncovered 97 engraved stone slabs along the outer wall of one building. The carvings date to 1770–1510 B.C. and depict combat rituals as well as human sacrifice. Further studies determined that the site is made up of five stone temples, which were part of a secondary structure that enveloped earlier mud buildings. Polychrome murals dated between 2290 and 2020 B.C. have been found in the surface of the mud buildings and depict stylized felines, an animal revered in the Formative Period. Over 300 carved monoliths have also been uncovered at Cerro Sechín, making it one of the earliest ornamented sites in the Americas. Some of its iconography is used in the decoration of the main public buildings and plazas of Casma city.

Decades of archaeological explorations at Cerro Sechín culminated with the opening of a site museum in 1984. Despite receiving over 17,000 visitors each year, the stone monuments at the archaeological site have not been treated since their excavation and restoration for public appreciation in the 1970s. As a result, the unique sculptures are cracked and eroded from exposure to the elements and seismic activity. In addition, the museum exhibition is now almost 30 years old and needs to be updated. Cerro Sechín was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch in order to encourage timely action for the conservation and management of the site.

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