Chan Chan

Chan-Chan, The timeless citadel of clay
From Machu Picchu Gateway [edited]

This enormous archaeological complex is located in front of the sea, half way between the Huanchaco hot springs and the city of Trujillo, which is the capital of the department of Lambayeque, in the north coast of Perú.

The site covers an extension of 20 km; the central zone is formed by 10 places with walls, called citadels, a few structures with a pyramidal shape, and the rest is formed by sidewalks, walls and cemeteries in bad shape.

The heart of Chan-Chan is formed by 10 citadels, called that way because of its big volume, resembling small cities with big walls. The way that Chan-Chan was built shows the status of each layer of its the society, located in different areas.

The inside of the construction shows 3 levels: North, Central and South. The North is formed by a Square with little benches; with an access on the South side, which leads to stores, also designated as the place where a very important administrative servant of the city may have lived or worked.

The Central side shows many constructions dedicated to the storage of the produce that grew near the citadel, and also locates the funerary platform, where the principal lord is buried. Most of the platforms were plundered by the Spanish in 1532, although the plundering have already begun with the Inca occupation around 1475 approximately.

The South side is where the people lived, this was a domestic area, with rooms and bedroom community, where the water well was located, providing water to every person who lived there.

Origin of the name

Chan-Chan in Quingnam language is the sun of the shining sun. The name comes from the exposure of the city to the sun, since that part of the country is always sunny, although the rains are constant; the clay citadel never melted throughout the centuries.

The Quingnam language was spoken by the Chimú culture, who lives in the ancient Mochica territory, this language was related with the Muchik language, used by the Mochicas.

Quingnam was only used by the elite in the territories that belonged to the Chimú Empire. Unfortunately, the language was already extinct at the arrival of the Spanish conquers.

How was [Chan Chan] built?

The Chimú Culture used the materials that were available on the region, like sun dried bricks with rocks, all united with clay, wider on the base and narrow on the top. To build the floors, they used the same sun dried bricks that were broken, along with soil, rocks and other materials.

The use of plant material served to make columns, roofs and poles. One of the most fascinating things to observe, is the that the walls are decorated in high relief, they used moulds to create fishes, birds and geometric shapes, all with a beautiful and delicate finishing touch.

The Chimú Culture and the myth of Tacaynamo

This culture emerged around the year 900 AD; the capital of their reign was indeed Chan- Chan, the biggest citadel of clay ever built. The Chimú culture was born from the rests of the Mochica culture, who were in decadence at that time.

They were able to take advantage of the land that lived and create an intensive agriculture and hydraulics works, using the Huanchaques, who was little holes in the ground where the humidity of the ground allow them to grow many products like sweet potato, papaya and cotton.

They also used wells, to get water and water storage to keep the water clean and use to drink or cook, increasing the productivity of the land.

By 1474, the Inca Tupac Inca Yupanqui directed a campaign against the Chimús; incorporated them to the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, taking to Minchancaman, the last Chimú emperor to the city of Cusco, confiscating all the gold and his fortune to make some work of art in the Inca city.

With the arrival of the Spanish, the city of Chan-Chan was plundered and destroyed in its majority, due to the myth or legend that on his walls there was a secret treasure made of gold and silver, but none that of that was true.

The date of the foundation of the Chimú culture has a mythical story: According to an anonymous myth, Tacaynamo came from the north on a raft to the Moche Valley, and he became the first governor of Chan-Chan. There were 10 kings of that dynasty. The last governor, Minchancaman surrendered to the Inca army.

The Nik An Walled Complex

This is one of the most important places of the Chimú culture, and is also the true reflect of the importance of the water and the sea, and the worship that the local use to do. The high reliefs on the walls show the images of fishes and red that the local use by capture the fishes, and also the images of pelicans and sea lions.

This well conserved construction is the reason that the ancient Peruvians, especially the Chimú, were able to create a whole cult to one of the most important force of nature: The Sea.

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