Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimú Kingdom

Chan Chan, Perú by Carlos Adampol GalindoChan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America, was the capital of the Chimú Kingdom, the ancient civilization that came after the Mochas and which lasted until 1470, when it was conquered by the Inca Empire.

What make this archeological site different from the many other sites in South America are its size and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean: it is located in the fertile Moche (or Santa Catalina) River valley, in the region of La Libertad, 5 kilometers (~3 miles) from Trujillo, the third largest city in Peru.

Chan Chan occupies a surface of 20 square kilometers (~8 square miles) in a perfectly organized way: it consists of nine fortified, rectangular shaped citadels, each of which is completely autonomous thanks to the presence of public and private spaces, service facilities and places of worship.

Trujillo by Wilson Loo Kok WeeEverything is built with adobe, on a stone base. The walls are covered by a smooth layer of clay which has been sculpted with outstanding abstract decorations and the representation of small animals and human beings.

The bigger citadel, Gran Chimú, occupies the northern part of the complex.

Remains of residences, temples, funeral parlors and ceremonial rooms can be seen in every citadel.
Beside the nine citadels lie the remains of the four areas that were dedicated to wood and metal working. Gold working in particular was well developed.

Chan Chan, Perú by Carlos Adampol GalindoThe irrigation system is really impressive: it consisted in 80 kilometers (~50 miles) of canals which managed to counteract the chronic lack of water due to the extraordinary aridity of the area.

The urban structure of Chan Chan, by integrating architectural and technological knowledge with the adaptation to the natural surroundings, is a synthesis of thousands of years of peruvian culture.

The distribution of spaces reflects a social approach which consisted in one all-powerful monarch and a few privileged classes (like artisans and ministers) that were served by the working mass.

Barro by Esteban VeraUnfortunately the conservation of this extraordinary site is being put at risk by the heavy rains caused by El Niño. It’s for this reason that Chan Chan has been added to the List of World Heritage in Danger by UNESCO in 1986.

Many conservation projects are underway to fight the deterioration of the city and to entrust such a magnificent heritage of this ancient and fascinating civilation to posterity.



Center map

Picture credits:
Trujillo by Wilson Loo Kok Wee (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Chan Chan, Perú by Carlos Adampol Galindo (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Chan Chan, Trujillo – Perú by Karinna Paz (CC BY 2.0)
Chan Chan, Trujillo 24 ene 2015 – Perú 052 by eduardorudas (CC BY 2.0)
Chan Chan by -RS- (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Museo Chan Chan y Huacas Esmeralda y Arcoiris 25 ene 2015 – Perú 136 by eduardorudas (CC BY 2.0)

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