Completed Project

Huaca de la Luna

Trujillo/La Libertad, Peru
Did You Know?
Huaca de la Luna, or Temple of the Moon, was part of the ancient Moche capital built of millions of adobe blocks between the first and eighth centuries AD in northern Peru.
A Closer Look

Huaca de la Luna


Huaca de la Luna, or Temple of the Moon, was part of the ancient Moche capital built of millions of adobe blocks between the first and eighth centuries AD in northern Peru. The Moche civilization developed great religious complexes, or huacas, formed by structures that grew over time as the result of successive entombments; by filling in and covering the older structures with mud bricks or adobe, Moche architects created fresh surfaces or platforms on which they situated their new constructions, often decorated with polychrome friezes. Huaca de la Luna underwent at least six construction phases spanning almost 600 years. Its enormous platforms are connected to four plazas located at various levels, and had covered-in patios and enclosures connected by corridors and ramps. Some of the enclosures were roofed and embellished with murals or friezes painted in striking colors. After the fall of the Moche civilization, the huacas were partially occupied by Chimu settlements until the 15th century when the region fell under the control of the Inca. In the 16th century, as a result of the Spanish conquest, these ceremonial sites were abandoned.

How We Helped

In 2001 WMF joined the Huaca de la Luna project initially sponsored by the Backus Foundation and other local partners. WMF provided matching funds to support a multi-year program whose goals were the conservation of the site and the development of a social agenda through cultural tourism. The project was organized into three major components: archaeological research, conservation (including professional training in earthen conservation), and management of the site. The conservation work included structural consolidation and cleaning, color and surface stabilization, drainage, protective covers, documentation, and monitoring of previously excavated and conserved areas. The work proposed for the 2009-2011 phase includes: conservation and interpretation of the temple façade and main plaza, creation of a research center for earthen architecture, organization of a workshop on protective covers, conservation training and the development of an integrated management plan to support the inscription of Huaca de la Luna as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On July 15, 2011, the first phase of a new tourist circuit through Huaca de la Luna was opened by Juan Ossio, Peru's Minister of Culture, and Marcela Pérez de Cuéllar, president of WMF's Peru Committee. The network of walkways, scheduled to be finished in 2015, will allow visitors to get up close to the fragile adobe structure.

The 2011 work season saw the completion of conservation work on the main façade of the temple facing the ceremonial plaza. In January 2012 an event was held to commemorate this milestone and showcase new discoveries, including an altar in the plaza.
On November 30, 2013, Peruvian Minister of Culture Diana Alvarez-Calderón and Vice minister of Culture Luis Jaime Castillo traveled to the site to honor the project´s co-directors and the private and public main supporters: Backus, Patronato Huacas del Valle de Moche, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, and WMF.

Why It Matters

After the Spanish conquest, these ceremonial sites were abandoned and for the next four centuries, they were not properly maintained, and lay exposed to the elements, suffering from wind erosion and the El Niño phenomenon. Consequently the adobe structures deteriorated and the upper-most platforms and superficial elements were lost. Huaca de la Luna is one of the most significant pre-Columbian resources in the region, and it is a large site requiring continuous conservation work including survey, documentation, consolidation, and stabilization of excavated architectural and decorative fabric. The balanced excavation, conservation, and interpretation strategies applied here have created an exponential increase in local and international tourism to the site, bringing economic development and job opportunities to the local communities. Huaca de la Luna is a model for integrating archaeology, conservation, and sustainable tourism development, and has received important international recognitions—it was named one of the ten best- managed sites in Iberian-America by the Secretary of Tourism of Spain, and received the IV Reina Sofía Award for Conservation and Restoration in 2006.

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