Opened in November 2002, the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán is the pride of northern Peru – as well it should be. With its burgundy pyramid construction rising gently out of the earth, it’s a world-class facility specifically designed to showcase the marvelous finds from Sipán. Photography is not permitted and all bags must be checked.
Visitors are guided through the museum from the top down and are shown some of the numerous discoveries from the tomb in the same order that the archaeologists found them – this small detail alone, rare in the museum world, adds a fascinating context to visits. The first hall contains detailed ceramics representing gods, people, plants, llamas and other animals.
On the 2nd floor there are delicate objects such as impossibly fine turquoise-and-gold ear ornaments showing ducks, deer and the Lord of Sipán himself. The painstaking and advanced techniques necessary to create this jewelry place them among the most beautiful and important objects of pre-Columbian America.
Finally the ground floor features exact reproductions of the tombs as they were found. Numerous dazzling objects are displayed, the most remarkable of which are the gold pectoral plates representing sea creatures such as octopus and crabs. Even the sandals of the Lord of Sipán were made of precious metals, as he was carried everywhere and never had to walk. Interestingly, since nobility were seen as part-animal gods, they used the nariguera (a distinctive nose shield) to conceal their very human teeth – and the fact that they were no different from everyone else.
As interesting as the artifacts on display are the exhibits on this remarkable archaeological find was excavated.
The lighting and layout is exceptional (though it takes a minute to get used to the dark interior lighting). The signage is all in Spanish, but English-speaking guides are available for S45 to S60 per group.