The archaeological prospections of September 1994 located, from a huaquero hole near Huaca Cao Viejo, a ceremonial well. The depth of desecration was suspicious: 4 meters. For this reason, it was decided to intervene in the place to understand what were the looters pursuing. The interventions determined that this great depression responded to a huge underground structure, in whose depths water had flowed. This is how the ceremonial well of El Brujo Archaeological Complex was discovered.

How is the Ceremonial Well?

The structure was worked on the natural soil of the archaeological complex. The ancients mochicas excavated those hard grounds filled with stone and gravel, simulating the shape of a spiral or snail. By stairs carved into these sediments, begins the descending to a small pool where even today an eye of water is found. The walls of the great well were not finished, so their profiles still show the natural stones of the geological formation. The well is 12.47m deep and its mouth has a circular shape, with an approximate diameter of 3.40m.

What did the archaeologists find?

Archaeological interventions removed approximately one ton of land that filled the well. Inside these fillings, materials from previous cultures were found. Therefore, it is assumed that the ancient Moche used nearby grounds to close the structure.

Understanding that the filler had the same depth of the well (12 m), it had to be deposited at different levels, composed of earth, ceramic fragments and human and animal bone remains. From the fourth level, the humidity was more noticeable. Surprisingly, it was there that a bed of stones was found, covering a male individual around 30-40 years old. Under him, water was stored in a cavity of 2.5mt in diameter, which was fed through three ducts duly identified with the excavations. 

What was the well used for and why was it abandoned?

Water samples were sent to the laboratory to determine its quality. The results determined that water is not suitable for agricultural work, much less for human consumption. That is why archaeologists postulated that the existence of the structure responds to eminently ceremonial criteria, associated with the Moche cult of water.

In the Moche iconographic repertoire, spiral forms appear repeatedly. For example, there are representations of underground structures associated with skeletons that descend towards them. In addition, the spiral is recurringly embodied in the architectural decoration of the main sacred spaces of Moche temples.

Finally, the burial of the male individual is interpreted as the first activity in the process of abandonment and closure of the well. When the ancients Moche decided not to use it anymore, this character was deposited and the structure was buried as if it were an important person, with parties and offerings.

Everything said provides an idea of ​​the ritual relevance of this underground structure in the ceremonial activities of the Mochica who inhabited the El Brujo Archaeological Complex.

Author: José Allpas

Franco, R., Gálvez, C.; Vásquez, S. (1998). “Un pozo ceremonial moche en el Complejo Arqueológico “El Brujo”. Revista de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales 5: 307-328.
Franco, R., Gálvez, C. (2003). “Un pozo ceremonial moche en el Complejo Arqueológico El Brujo. Un caso de arquitectura mochica subterránea”. Arkinka 97: 88-95.
Mujica, E. (Ed.) (2007). El Brujo. Huaca Cao, Centro Ceremonial Moche en el Valle de Chicama. Lima: Fundación Wiese.