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Chan Chan

Chan Chan (chän chän), ruins of an ancient city near Trujillo, N Peru. An early example of city planning, with a rectangular grid structure, it was probably begun in the period from AD 950 to 1400, and it is estimated that it may have contained as many as 200,000 people. Chan Chan is generally accepted as the capital of the Chimu, a pre-Inca civilization. It is on a large plain of the coastal desert, which was made arable by extensive irrigation works. Covering c.11 sq mi (28 sq km), the city comprised at least 10 self-contained, walled-in units. The walls, built of adobe brick, are decorated with relief designs.

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Chan Chan

Chan Chan the capital of the pre-Inca civilization of the Chimu. Its extensive adobe ruins are situated on the coast of north Peru.

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Chan Chan

Chan Chan

Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimú Empire. Located in the Moche valley of Peru's north coast, the city of Chan Chan was founded between 850 and 900 ce. As the imperial capital of the Chimú, it eventually grew to be one of the largest pre-Columbian cities in South America.

The city, constructed of adobe bricks, covered nearly ten square miles. Ten huge palace-like structures, called ciudadelas, which are believed to correspond to the ten rulers of the Chimú dynasty, dominate the city. Surrounded by walls thirty feet or more in height, these structures contained rooms and corridors in a complex labyrinthine arrangement. Architecturally, they were a radical break with the earlier Moche tradition of ceremonial centers dominated by pyramids. Whereas Moche monumental architecture was principally religious, the most complex Chimú structures seem to have been rulers' residences, which suggests that the rulers had become divine. The form of the ciudadela probably derived from earlier Huari architecture, which was widely distributed throughout ancient Peru and would have provided a model for prestigious imperial buildings.

These ciudadelas have been interpreted as the residence and treasure vault of the reigning emperor and, after his death, his mortuary monument, for they include kitchens, wells, shrines, living quarters, numerous storerooms, and burial platforms. The many storerooms are thought to have housed the accumulated valuables of the ruler, such as fine cloth, gold and silver objects, spondylus shells, and other high-status goods.

Between the large ciudadelas, lesser compounds housed the nobles and lower-ranking elite. These were simpler versions of the great compounds and housed many of the same functions on a reduced scale. The city also contained residential districts for artisans and their workshops; these buildings were much smaller and lacked the elaboration of the elite buildings.

See alsoChimú; Moche.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The principal sources on the city of Chan Chan are Rogger Ravines, Chan Chan metrópoli Chimú (1980); Michael Moseley and Kent C. Day, eds., Chan Chan: Andean Desert City (1982). See also John H. Rowe, "The Kingdom of Chimor," Acta Americana 6 (1948): 26-59; and Michael Moseley and Alana Cordy-Collins, The Northern Dynasties: Kingship and Statecraft in Chimor (1990). For a discussion of the architectural origins of Chan Chan, see Gordon F. Mc Ewan, "Some Formal Correspondences Between the Imperial Architecture of the Wari and Chimú Cultures of Ancient Peru," Latin American Antiquity 1, no. 2 (1990): 97-116.

Additional Bibliography

Sakai, Masato. Reyes, estrellas y cerros en Chimor: El proceso de cambio de la organización espacial y temporal en Chan Chan. Lima: Editorial Horizonte, 1998.

Stone, Rebecca. Art of the Andes from Chavín to Inca. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Valle Alvarez, Luis. Aportes para la historia de Chan Chan. Trujillo: Ediciones SIAN, 2004.

                                       Gordon F. McEwan

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