The Disappearing Act of the Moche
Archaeologists have noted evidence of flooding and earthquakes that could have ruined the irrigation canal systems critical to Moche farms. They suspect that a series of El Niños, which would have altered ocean currents, disrupted fishing grounds, and rapidly increased rainfall, drove the Moche from the productive coastal river valleys where they lived until around the 9th century A.D. After the Moche were gone, later cultures likely regarded the pyramids they had built as sacred. Archaeologists have exhumed a number of artifacts attributed to the later Sicán/Lambayeque culture (A.D. 800–1375) buried in front of the Huaca Cao Viejo pyramid at the site of El Brujo. Such objects carry high price tags on the illegal antiquities market, making the pyramids targets for looters. Unfortunately, archaeologists can only guess what has been lost due to illegal looting at these sites.
- Ira Block/National Geographic Creative