|The tatoos of the 1,600-year-old Lady of Cao are still visible. The mummy was discovered in Peru in 2006 and can be seen at|
|The ruins of Huaca Cao are less than an hour from Trujillo along Peru’s northern coast.|
What was the significance of this discovery?
The lady of Cao is the first scientifically discovered Peruvian pre-Hispanic ruler. This finding remarkably changed the notion of power in ancient Peru, because until recently, it was thought that only men held these important positions. Her emblems (crown, tiaras, nose ring, earrings, among other things) are sufficient evidence to ensure that she had this status. In addition, the tattoos on her forearms suggest that she was thought to have supernatural powers to cure or predict events, perhaps through the use of spiders.
How did they come across her?
The circumstances of the discovery of the Lady of Cao occurred as a result of a previous process of findings. First we found a ceremonial enclosure decorated with images of supernatural beings (lines, the lunar animal, etc.), which indicated that this was a sacred place where ceremonies were performed. However, the emergence of a buried pot gave us a clue that something interesting could be found there. It was because of this excavation that we saw the silhouette of the grave where the burial bundle of the Lady of Cao was. She was kept in an extraordinary state of conservation, which had never been seen previously for this era. The finding of this tomb occurred on July 5, 2005.
|The restoration of the Lady of Cao.|
Cao Museum: Getting there
From the city of Trujillo: At the Santa Cruz stop in front of the Complejo Deportivo Chicago, tou can take a bus that leaves every 30 minutes to Chocope. It costs three soles and last 45 minutes. From Chocope, take a 20-minute bus to Magdalena de Cao.
The Museum costs S/.11 if you’re an adult and S/.6 per student. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Régulo Franco, interviewed here, is currently in charge of the El Brujo Archaeological Complex Program, which is funded by the Wiese Foundation.
In 1990, the Wiese Foundation launched the project, as part of the research and conservation of the Huaca Cao Viejo of the El Brujo Archaeological Complex.
In 2005 they signed a new agreement for 10 years to fix the area for the arrival of tourists and continue research.
For more information, visit fundacionwiese.com (in Spanish).
Will research continue?
We are now dedicating our time to lab work, analysis of the remains that were buried with the Lady of Cao, conservation and monitoring of the museum’s rooms and murals, and maintenance of the monument.
Did the number of visits grow after her finding?
In 2009, we reached 32,294 visits but the greatest increase was after the inauguration of the Cao site museum in April 2009. This year, to this date, 13,408 domestic and international tourists have visited the complex.
What is the best way to do the circuit?
The ideal thing would be to visit first the monument and then the museum. We also offer two mystic routes. One is the shaman demonstration and the other is the cleansing and purifying bath route. The latter is done in a ceremonial mochica fountain that is almost 2,000 years old. A local man from Magdalena de Cao is personally in charge of doing the work himself. Finally, you cannot miss the view from the top of the Cao Viejo pyramid; it is wonderful. You can see the ocean, the valley with the surrounding mountains and the entire El Brujo complex, which looks like a bombed city due to the thousands of holes made by the "huaqueros," or tomb robbers, before the ’90s.
What do you think this attraction is missing to make it even more appealing to the public?
We need to offer a more complete circuit. A proposal could be a route that includes the El Brujo complex and the huaca Prieta (5000 years old) which are both near the sea. To start it, a master plan of the site would have to be made. This could be combined with the attractions in the town of Magdalena de Cao, where the visitor can have the opportunity to see browse the stores and try the delicious food.