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Chan Chan / Chimu Culture / Chimu Peru

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The year 850 AD marks the beginning of the fabled Ming Dynasty in China.

In about that same year, Chan Chan - what is now known as the largest Pre-Columbian city in all of the Americas - was in the midst of its growing boom on the opposite side of the globe.

Built by the Chimu Culture on the coast of Peru, this immense adobe city is recognized today as a world-class archeological site.

In 1986, over 1,100 years after its construction, this capital of the Chimu Empire was added to the list of Unesco World Heritage sites.

Chan Chan - The Capital of the Chimu Culture in PeruChan Chan - The Capital of the Chimu Culture in Peru

   Features of Chan Chan


Unlike some of the more well-known tourist archeological sites in Peru such as Machu Picchu or Cusco, this main city of the Chimu Culture was a full-blown city occupied by all levels of Chimu society.


The Chimu Empire

Preceded by the Moche Civilization, the Chimu Empire had a long history and lasted 1,000 years, about ten times as long as its conqueror, the powerful Inca Empire (1438-1532).

Chimu Empire - map of area coveredLocation of the Chimu Empire in Peru

This Chimu, Peru, empire covered the western shore of South America from about the current frontier of Ecuador in the north down to the middle of present-day Peru.

In 1470 AD the Chimor Culture was overtaken and absorbed by the Incas.

   Chan Chan Peru - The Archaeological Site

With an estimated population of 30,000 people and covering an area of aproximately 3 x 2-1/2 miles (20 sq. kilometers), this center of population certainly was one of the most impressive cities of its time.

Chan Chan is located near the present-day city of Trujillo on the coastal plains of the country of Peru, South America.

The dominant features of the landscape around Chan Chan in modern times is predominantly desert.

Chimu Civilization - The Extent of Chimor PowerChimu Civilization - The Extent of Chimor Power

As in all of Peru, the coastal desert plains suffer an almost total lack of rainfall accented by an occasional torrential and destructive storm.

Nearby valleys, however, with their river-irrigated fields produce all types of lush tropical fruit and foliage, the extent being limited only by the area of irrigation.

On the edges of present-day Chan Chan you will see fields of maracuya (passion fruit), corn, sugar cane, and other crops.

There are several theories regarding the decline and downfall of the Chan Chan and the Chimor people.

The most likely scenario was that a period of heavy rains followed by drought weakened the strength of Chimu Culture and led to its desintegration.

What to See

Built of adobe (sun-baked mud bricks), the 10,000 structures composing the city have gradually eroded to what is seen today. The still impressive remnants of Chimu Culture palaces and temples as well as other immense stuctures, however, can easily be seen at this time.

Chan Chan's important cultural features and historical value, a well as easy access from the city of Trujillo, make this site well worth a day's visit for any tourist to Peru, as the following video shows.

Protecting the Future of Chan Chan and Other Archaeological Sites

Some experts estimate that Peru has over 100,000 archaelogical sites. Protecting these sites from environmental damage and encroachment of civilization is a monumental task.

The difficulty in protecting mud-brick sites such as Chan Chan and many others is on ongoing challenge.

Archaelogists are now using drone cameras not only to unveil more sites but also to preserve images of existing sites for future restoraion.

In this video, drones are shown photographing various sites in Peru including Chan Chan.

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