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Patrick Bureau

Chan Chan   

The Chimú kingdom reached its peak in the fifteenth century, shortly before succumbing to the Incan power. Its capital, Chan Chan, established in the once fertile river valley of Moche or Santa Catalina, in northern Peru, was the largest city with earthen architecture in pre-Columbian America.

Located 5 km from Trujillo, the huge site, which covers about twenty square kilometers, was conquered by the Incas in 1460 and abandoned before the arrival of the Spaniards. This earthen city, built of rammed clay (clay dried in the sun and mixed with straw, which is made of bricks called "raw bricks") is composed of citadels, or rectangular palaces with high walls.




Astounding social organization

The ruins of this vast city reflect a rigorous political and social organization in its layout, with partitions into nine “citadels” or “palaces,” as many independent units.

Around these nine units were thirty-two huge enclosures and four production areas devoted to weaving, woodworking and metalworking.

Within these units stand temples, dwellings, warehouses as well as reservoirs and funerary platforms.

An important place of worship

Chan Chan is also an immense place of worship, which explains the numerous ceremonial halls, mortuary chambers, temples and altars dedicated to the sacrifices, as well as the tremendous reservoirs intended to preserve the offerings necessary for the ceremonies. Here, the cult of the moon, called Si, occupies an important place. Unlike the Incas, the Chimú considered the Moon to be a deity that was more powerful than the Sun because it is visible during both day and night.

It is said that the city served about 100,000 people, making it the largest in pre-Columbian America.

Its walls are engraved with realistic or stylized representations: fish, pelicans, fishing nets. It is clear that the Chimús had a preference for maritime motives, which is probably explained by both their proximity to the Pacific Ocean and by the fact that the Moche and Chicama rivers fed a complex irrigation system with an 80-kilometer-long canal that served the Chan Chan region at the height of the Chimú civilization.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

As mentioned by UNESCO, "Chan Chan brings a unique testimony and is the most representative city of the extinct Chimú kingdom, where eleven thousand years of cultural evolution in northern Peru are expressed and synthesized. The architectural ensemble uniquely integrates symbolic and sacred architecture with the technological knowledge illustrated with its industrial, agricultural and water management systems and adaptation to the original environment. "

It is a must-see in Northern Peru!

Christiane Théberge

Source et autres sites for more information http://whc.unesco.org/fr/documents/120764/