Chan-Chan, the oldest Pre-Inca citadel

One of the most relevant and important things that Peru has is the culture and archaeological sites to visit. And among other, we have Chan Chan, the largest city of the Pre-Columbian Era in South America and the largest adobe (mud brick) city in the world. The entire complex spanned over more than 20km² and it is estimated to have had over 30,000 inhabitants at the top of its glory while the Chimu Kingdom had more than 500,000 inhabitants.

The Chimu Kingdom, with Chan Chan as its capital, reached its apogee in the 15th century, not long before falling to the Incas. The planning of this huge city, the largest in pre-Columbian America, reflects a strict political and social strategy, marked by the city’s division into nine ‘citadels’ or ‘palaces’ forming autonomous units.

Next to being the residence of the king, queens and priests, Chan Chan served as the commercial, political and administrative center of the Chimu Kingdom. At the center of the city, which spans over 6km2, lie extravagant ‘Ciudadela’ or palaces. These large architectural masterpieces functioned as storage, residence, mausoleum, temple, and administrative center. Outside of these areas lie the compounds and centers for textile weaving, metalworking, woodworking, etc. At the outskirts of these compounds there were the houses of the farmers. Only the palaces and the compounds have been reserved.

The ruins of Chan Chan, which cover nearly 14 square miles (36 square km), are in fairly good condition because the area is usually rainless. The building material used was adobe brick, and the buildings were finished with mud frequently adorned with patterned relief arabesques. The centre of the city consists of several walled citadels, or quadrangles. Each of these contains pyramidal temples, cemeteries, gardens, reservoirs, and symmetrically arranged rooms. These quadrangles presumably were the living quarters, burial places, and storehouses of the aristocracy. Most of the city’s population—artisans and farmers—lived outside the quadrangles in modest quarters of less-durable construction.

The city of Chan Chan spanned 20 km² and had a dense urban center of 6 km² which contained extravagant citadels. The citadels were large architectural masterpieces that housed plazas, storerooms, and burial platforms for the royals. The splendor of these citadels suggests their association with the royal class.

Chan Chan idols discovery was considered to be among the 10 greatest archaeological finds in 2018

In October 2018, the Ministry of Culture of Peru revealed an important discovery in the gigantic citadel of Chan Chan (La Libertad); 19 anthropomorphic wooden sculptures and a corridor decorated with mud reliefs were found, all corresponding to the Chimu culture.

This discovery was picked out by the prestigious National Geographic magazine (Spain), which chose to include it in its list of 10 amazing archaeological finds of 2018.

The head of the Chan Chan Research and Conservation Unit, Arturo Paredes, explained that the sculptures would probably have been guardians at the archaeological site, due to their location at the main entrance. They would also have been used as markers for tombs of important figures from the Chimu culture.

The sculptures, more than 750 years old, measure about 2 feet high, are upright and located on the sides of the passageway. They are holding a scepter in one hand and a trophy head in the other; with a circular shield on the back. The idols are also wearing clay masks.

According to the archaeologist in charge of the project for the ‘Restoration of the perimeter walls of the walled complex Utzh An (Great Chimu)’, Henry Gayoso Rullier, the sculptures are probably the oldest known on this site. “They could belong to the middle stage of Chan Chan, between 1,100 and 1,300 AD”, he said.

The remains of this vast city reflect in their layout a strict political and social strategy, emphasized by their division into nine ‘citadels’ or ‘palaces’ forming independent units.

Leave a Reply