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Lambayeque, the name of a modern Peruvian town, district, province, and department. The department, which was created by law 10 December 1874, is bounded by the department of Piura on the north, the department of La Libertad on the south, the department of Cajamarca on the east, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Its territory encompasses the desert coast; fertile, irrigated river valleys; and the western slopes of the Andes Mountains.

The town of Lambayeque became increasingly important during the colonial period. Encompassing a large community of Indians, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, Lambayeque became a very valuable encomienda entrusted by Francisco Pizarro in 1536 to Juan de Barbarán, his loyal supporter and confidant. By the earliest years of the seventeenth century, the town had become an important stopover on the overland route to Lima. Twice thereafter, the town became a refuge for the provincial elite: first, on 14 February 1619, following an earthquake that damaged Trujillo, and second, after the flood of 1720, which destroyed the provincial capital of Saña. As a consequence of the flood, Saña's citizens made Lambayeque the de facto administrative center of the area, a function it performed into the nineteenth century.

During the early nineteenth century, Lambayeque was the third department, after Ica and Tarma, to choose independence. In the late twentieth century, the department was known for its sugar production. It also became known nationally for a pastry called "King Kong," still a sought-after item found in markets across Peru. The town of Lam-bayeque has been eclipsed by the departmental capital and bustling commercial emporium of Chiclayo. In 1987 archaeologist Walter Alva discovered an extraordinarily rich archaeological site outside of Chiclayo. Known as Sipán, the Moche burial site somehow escaped the rampant looting that damaged and destroyed many other archaeological sites throughout Peru's northern coastal region. Artifacts found there include metalwork in gold and silver, as well as various masks and jewelry pieces made of precious stone.

See alsoMoche; Sipán; Sugar Industry; Tarma.


Ricardo A. Miranda, Monografía general del Departmento de Lambayeque (1927).

David P. Werlich, Peru: A Short History (1978).

Hans Heinrich Brüning, Estudios monográficos del Departmento de Lambayeque (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Fernández Alvarado, Julio César. Sinto, señorío, e identidad en la costa norte lambayecana. Chiclayo, Peru: Consultores y Promotores Turísticos del Norte (COPROTUR), 2004.

Ibáñez, Eugenio W. Lambayeque: Mitología y realidad. Peru, 1997.

Pillsbury, Joanne, ed. Moche Art and Archaeology in Ancient Peru. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; New Haven, CT: Distributed by Yale University Press, 2001.

Ramírez, Susan E. Provincial Patriarchs: Land Tenure and the Economics of Power in Colonial Peru. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986.

                                        Susan E. RamÍrez