Lords of Sipan: A Tale of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime

Lords of Sipan: A Tale of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime

by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kirkpatrick ( A Cast of Killers ) engagingly recounts how Peruvian archeologist Walter Alva out-maneuvered huaqueros (grave robbers), international smugglers and governmental interference to successfully excavate one of the richest deposits of pre-Columbian artifacts in South America. Alva, who publicized his discovery in National Geographic , mobilized a depleted local police force, recruited indigenous laborers, ingeniously neutralized community resistance, and raised sufficient funding to painstakingly sift through a Huaca Rajada burial site for evidence of Moche royalty in the coastal valleys of northern Peru, skillfully unfolds this stirring drama of one man's fight to preserve his country's cultural heritage. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Around midnight on February 25, 1987, local police awoke Walter Alva, inspector general of archaeology for the Peruvian province of Lambayeque along Peru's north coast. The police informed Alva that they had seized a rice sack of artifacts plundered from a local Moche tomb at nearby Huaca Rajada. Thus begins the tale, written like a mystery, of the discovery and excavation of the richest archaeological find in pre-Columbian America. Kirkpatrick follows the trail of the illegal artifacts as they pass from Peru to London and then into the hands of U.S. collectors in California, juxtaposing chapters on the actual excavation. The six-level tomb yielded a remarkable collection of finely crafted objects, large figurines, and beautifully preserved pottery dating from A.D. 100 to 300. Kirkpatrick, whose previous A Cast of Killers (NAL-Dutton, 1992) made the New York Times Best Sellers list, based this mesmerizing tale on interviews with Alva, the Peruvian police, U.S. customs agents and collectors, and the looters themselves. It's a book the reader won't be able to put down.-- Brian E. Coutts, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
Donna Seaman
Kirkpatrick, author of "Turning the Tide" , writes with a cinematic flair, injecting tremendous suspense into his accounts of actual events. His latest investigative yarn explores the conflict between dedicated archaeologists and wily smugglers of rare, pre-Columbian artifacts. Kirkpatrick brings us to the coastal deserts of Peru, once home of the pyramid-building Moche, a little-known but long-lived pre-Inca civilization. In 1987, "huaqueros", or tomb looters, tunneled into the Huaca Rajada pyramid, broke open an astonishing burial site, and plundered one of the world's richest caches of ancient, exquisitely crafted ornaments and figurines made of gold, copper, and precious stones. In their haste and greed, they destroyed hundreds of ceramic vessels and myriad other clues to the identity of the immortalized ruler and the significance of the tomb's contents. Dr. Walter Alva, a Peruvian archaeologist, rushed to the scene, where, after painstaking and dangerous work, he discovered several more royal tombs, which were undefiled, and constitute the most spectacular archaeological find ever made in the Americas. Kirkpatrick's rapid interplay between the slick operation of antiquities smugglers and Alva's thrilling exhumation of the secrets of the moon-worshipping, human-sacrificing, artistically and technically brilliant Moche is simply dazzling, guaranteed to enrapture readers intrigued with both the altruism of archaeology and the covetousness of illicit collecting.
Kirkus Reviews
Exciting Indiana Jones-like adventure with a cast of real-life archaeologists, temple looters, smugglers, and art collectors, centering on a fabulous, long-lost treasure. As is often the case in archaeology, the discovery is serendipitous: in February 1987, huaqueros (temple robbers) poking around the old pyramid complex of Huaca Rajada in Peru stumble upon a horde of remarkable gold artifacts including masks, knives, beads, and nose rings. A police raid leads to the involvement of Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva, director of the Bruning Museum. Alva soon realizes that the thieves have found a legendary cache sought for centuries: the burial chambers of the Lords of Sipan, rulers of the pre-Incan Moche (c. A.D. 100-700), an agrarian people with a taste for human sacrifice. Massive excavation leads to further spectacular finds, including mummies, skeletons (some the victims of live burial), and priceless scepters, ceramics, and figurines. Shootouts between huaqueros and police threaten Alva's operations, but a greater danger is the voracious international black market in pre-Columbian art. Kirkpatrick neatly interweaves Alva's story with that of the smuggling network, the latter affording an exciting glimpse of a sordid demimonde filled with flamboyant con men, unscrupulous museum directors, and art-hungry private collectors—most notably Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. A British smuggler squeals, US Customs strikes, the Santa Barbara Art Museum is caught with illegal treasures, Gell-Mann nobly returns his collection to Peru—and Kirkpatrick, without moralizing, makes a strong case for other collectors to do the same. Another story of true-life derring-dofrom Kirkpatrick (coauthor, Turning the Tide, 1991; A Cast of Killers, 1986), who once again blends offbeat characters, local color, and a lurking mystery into top-drawer nonfiction. (Eight pages of color photographs, 45 line drawings—not seen.)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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1st ed

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