LORDS OF SIPAN by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick

LORDS OF SIPAN

A Tale of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Exciting Indiana Jones-like adventure with a cast of real-life archaeologists, temple looters, smugglers, and art collectors, centering on a fabulous, long-lost treasure. As is often the case in archaeology, the discovery is serendipitous: in February 1987, huaqueros (temple robbers) poking around the old pyramid complex of Huaca Rajada in Peru stumble upon a horde of remarkable gold artifacts including masks, knives, beads, and nose rings. A police raid leads to the involvement of Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva, director of the Bruning Museum. Alva soon realizes that the thieves have found a legendary cache sought for centuries: the burial chambers of the Lords of Sipan, rulers of the pre-Incan Moche (c. A.D. 100-700), an agrarian people with a taste for human sacrifice. Massive excavation leads to further spectacular finds, including mummies, skeletons (some the victims of live burial), and priceless scepters, ceramics, and figurines. Shootouts between huaqueros and police threaten Alva's operations, but a greater danger is the voracious international black market in pre-Columbian art. Kirkpatrick neatly interweaves Alva's story with that of the smuggling network, the latter affording an exciting glimpse of a sordid demimonde filled with flamboyant con men, unscrupulous museum directors, and art-hungry private collectors--most notably Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. A British smuggler squeals, US Customs strikes, the Santa Barbara Art Museum is caught with illegal treasures, Gell-Mann nobly returns his collection to Peru--and Kirkpatrick, without moralizing, makes a strong case for other collectors to do the same. Another story of true-life derring-do from Kirkpatrick (coauthor, Turning the Tide, 1991; A Cast of Killers, 1986), who once again blends offbeat characters, local color, and a lurking mystery into top-drawer nonfiction. (Eight pages of color photographs, 45 line drawings--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1992
ISBN: 0-688-10396-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992




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