One of the most fascinating topics about the El Brujo Archaeological Complex is precisely its name. According to the RAE, brujo means “that person who performs acts of magic or sorcery to dominate the will of the people or modify events, especially if it causes a harmful or malefic influence on people or their destiny.”

Many stories and versions have been told about the origin of the name, being the most accepted the fact of the representative amount of shamans in the current town of Magdalena de Cao. It is also assumed that outstanding masters would have preferred the great court of the Huaca El Brujo or Cortada to perform their rituals.

However, this article is not intended to understand the reason for the name but the age of the name, and who for the first time registers it, making the first efforts to identify the many buildings and spaces that integrate the archaeological complex nowadays.

Antonio Raimondi was an Italian naturalist who migrated to Peru in 1850 (Figure 1). Soon, he stood out when he seized the chair of Natural History, taught at the Royal College of Medicine of San Fernando, and participated in scientific expeditions to evaluate guano deposits in the Chincha Islands and saltpeter deposits in Tarapacá [1].

Raimondi’s outstanding performance in these works was vital for the Peruvian state to finance its exploration and systematic recognition of the country’s natural resources, an ambitious business for the time.

In that context, on the afternoon of May 20, 1868, Antonio Raimondi arrives at the town of Magdalena of Cao and stays there for four days as a base for his visits to the different places of the Low Valley of Chicama. As a personal custom, he wrote his observations in notebooks that have recently been published in digital version by the National Archive of the Nation (Figure 2).

Pages 32 and 33 of Antonio Raimondi notebook, where his notes and a sketch of the El Brujo Archaeological Complex are read. Image: General Archive of the Nation.

The next day, during his tour by the Chicama countryside, the naturalist paid attention to a series of medium-height pre-Hispanic buildings located in front of the coast. The density of these huacas made him suppose that this area of the valley, provided with numerous lagoons with fish, housed a considerable population in ancient times.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the name El Brujo referred to the entire creek located at the west of the current archaeological complex. This beach was, as nowadays, frequently visited during summer by the inhabitants of Magdalena de Cao and the nearby estates.

Raymond does not get to specify the origin of the denomination El Brujo in the area; nevertheless, he records the names that at that time served to denominate the most representative mounds of the archaeological complex. Huaca Redonda was the most northern building of the pre-Hispanic settlement and, although its shape was not strictly related to the name, it held a remarkable height. Considering the direction of the displacement and the sketch made by the naturalist, Huaca Redonda does not seem to be other than the current Huaca Cortada.

(Figure 4). Despite this, it is noteworthy that Raimondi, being a diligent observer, has not dedicated any description of the notorious cuts made by looters in the southern front of Huaca Cortada, which leads to suppose that the gigantic cuts of said building were made after his visit to the complex.


Current view of Huaca Cortada (or El Brujo), identified as Huaca Redonda by Antonio Raimondi.

The Huaca Blanca is located on the beach line. It was about 10 yards high (approximately 8.4 meters) and was constructed out of small adobes. The upper part of the huaca presented a series of quadrangular divisions of 1 rod to 1 and a half rod (approximately 84 cm to 125 cm). The fact that a section of this huaca was destroyed by sea waves and understanding that the ancient Peruvians were diligent in choosing their settlements, led Raimondi to suppose that in ancient times the sea had a greater retreat than the existing one in the 19th century. The description of Huaca Blanca is congruent with the southwest building of the Paredones sector, which shows a profile of adobes massively organized in sets, commonly referred to as BAT or hatched adobe block. This technique has been reported and widely documented in the Moche buildings of the complex and the region.

Little was said about Huaca Prieta, located at the southern end of the complex. Raimondi points out that it was built by boulders and dirt, giving it a natural mound appearance. On the other hand, it details that at the base of Huaca Prieta there were small salt flats, probably formed by the mixture of seawater and groundwater.

Heading north, Raimondi arrives at the so-called Pueblo Viejo, which was constituted by the “ruins of houses and a church” [1]. The surface of the place showed the traces of centuries of looting. The Italian explorer detailed the numerous existence of bones and skulls of similar characteristics to those he had seen in the indigenous cemeteries along the Peruvian coast. These human remains still preserved the remains of their funeral garments, consisting of ceramic vessels, silver rings, shell necklaces and small turquoise and glass objects. All these elements allowed Raimondi to deduce that this town had to be founded after the Spanish conquest and occupied by a large native population during the colony.

The last place visited by Raimondi is Huaca Garrita (or Garita), one of the highest mounds in the entire settlement. The sketch that graphs the layout of the old buildings in El Brujo shows that Huaca Garrita is adjacent to Pueblo Viejo. This undoubtedly reveals that this mound is the current Huaca Cao Viejo, the temple-type building with major archaeological interventions, where the funerary context of the Lady of Cao was found.

Antonio Raimondi’s documented visit to the El Brujo Archaeological Complex in the autumn of 1868, constitutes a valuable antecedent in the archaeological investigation process. It marks a milestone in the knowledge of the history of Magdalena de Cao and its customs, as well as the names used by the population of Chicama to called the huacas of El Brujo a century and a half ago (Figure 3).


Aerial photo of the El Brujo Archaeological Complex taken by the National Aerophotographic Service or SAN in 1969. The uppercase names are those used today, while those in square brackets are those that Antonio Raimondi recorded during his visit.

To this we must add the first inferences linked to the chronology of the occupation of the archaeological complex. Based on the mode of construction, state of conservation of the architecture and the use of certain objects, Raimondi distinguishes a colonial era represented by Pueblo Viejo and another pre-Hispanic era represented by the great huacas.

Almost 80 years later, the archaeological excavations of Junius Bird in the well-known Huaca Prieta would reveal that the antiquity of the pre-Hispanic occupation in El Brujo dates back at least 5,000 years before the present.

[1] Lizárraga, Lizardo. 2003. “Raimondi and its links with European science, 1851-1890”. Bulletin of the French Institute of Andean Studies 32 (3): 517-537.

[2] General Archive of the Nation. Republican Archive, Antonio Raimondi Fund, Trip to Trujillo. Chicama Valley – San Pedro de Guadalupe – Monsefú – Chiclayo – Lambayeque and Hacienda de Patapo (1868), Pp. 32.

Link to the General Archive of the Nation / Antonio Raimondi Fund:

Link to the General Archive of the Nation / Antonio Raimodi Fund / Trip to Trujillo. Chicama Valley- San Pedro de Guadalupe- Monsefú- Chiclayo- Lambayeque and Hacienda de Patapo: