The Moche inhabited a series of river valleys along the arid coastal plain of northern Peru from about A.D. 100 to 800. Through farming and fishing, they supported a dense population and highly stratified society that constructed irrigation canals, pyramids, palaces, and temples. Although they had no writing system, the Moche left a vivid artistic record of their activities in beautiful ceramic vessels, elaborately woven textiles, colorful murals, and wondrous objects of gold, silver, and copper.

Sipán was the administrative and religious center of the Northern Moche region, and like most Moche centers, it boasts two large pyramidal structures called Huacas. The huacas were large platform mounds, built of thousands of adobe bricks, and on top of the tallest platforms were large patios, rooms and corridors, and a high bench for the seat of the ruler.
The site is famous for the tomb of El Señor de Sipán (Lord of Sipán), excavated by W. Alva beginning in 1987. The tomb of the Lord of Sipán has been dated to around 100 AD.

The site, where fourteen tombs have been discovered, is considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the last 30 years, because the main tomb was found intact and undisdurbed by thieves with hundreds of gold, ceramic and semiprecious mineral objects, as well as an entourage consisting of his wife, two girls, a boy, a military chief, a flag-bearer, two guards, two dogs and a llama.
Another important tomb held the "sacerdote", who was accompanied into his afterlife with an equally impressive quantity of treasures, as well as a few children, a guardian whose feet where cut off and a headless llama.