Lords of Sipan
A Tale of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime
| 1st ed.
Baker & Taylor
A true-crime adventure story tells of Dr. Walter Alva's experiences in Peru as he struggled to excavate and protect the pre-Inca treasures at the lost tombs of the Lords of Sipan from looters and smugglers. 50,000 first printing. $50,000 ad/promo. Tour.
Blackwell North Amer
In January 1987, archaeologist and museum curator Dr. Walter Alva was asked to examine a collection of strange artifacts found in the home of a poor grave robber on Peru's remote north coast. The subsequent police inquiry traced the cache to an ancient pyramid at Sipan, where looters had plundered a royal tomb of a little-known civilization called the Moche. This ransacking of the New World's richest archaeological discovery devastated Alva, who had been conducting a ten-year crusade to protect Peru's monuments of the past. What he did not know was that the looted artifacts had already been smuggled out of Peru and into England for re-transport to Los Angeles, where they would be sold to wealthy art collectors and dealers.
At Sipan itself, the police, fearing for his safety, were demanding that Alva abandon his search for objects the looters might have missed. His own colleagues were also urging him to leave, believing he was wasting precious resources on an excavation doomed to failure. In the midst of this crisis, Christopher Donnan, the world's most respected Moche scholar, arrived with much-needed cash, supplies, and encouragement, along with the news that the precious artifacts were already in the hands of collectors and dealers. Donnan's information proved correct, for in the months to come, looted artifacts reached the hands of Los Angeles Museum of Art trustee Ben Johnson and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Man. In fact, many of the objects would soon go on display at the prestigious Santa Barbara Art Museum.
Meanwhile, U.S. Customs agents had begun an investigation into the smuggling operation, and in March 1988, their unprecedented seizure of pre-Columbian antiquities sent shock waves through the art world. When reports of the raid reached Peru, Alva was having a celebration of his own. The pyramid at Sipan was not the burial place of a single Moche lord but was, like the Valley of Kings of ancient Egypt, a necropolis containing many lords. At least three tombs, richer in gold and silver than any other site excavated in the Americas, remained intact. To protect their discovery, Alva and his men put down their shovels and picked up guns, confronting the looters and winning their support.
Police and Customs agents, however, were much less successful in their efforts to gain the return of the stolen artifacts. A controversial U.S. court decision resulted in the forfeiture to Peru of only 250 of the nearly 3,000 precious objects seized by the police. But an important precedent was set, serious questions were raised about private ownership of national treasures, and the first conviction in U.S. history for smuggling pre-Columbian art was obtained.
Tells of Dr. Walter Alva's experinces in Peru as he struggled to excavate and protect the pre-Inca treasures at the lost tombs of the Lords of Sipan
New York : Morrow, c1992.
256 p. : col. ill., maps ; 25 cm.