Batán Grande

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Batán Grande

Batán Grande, region in the mid-La Leche Valley at the northern end of the north coast of Peru. Much of the area comprises the yunga life zone, which is characterized by year-round humidity and intense sun. From the early twentieth century until 1969, Batán Grande was owned by the Juan Aurich hacienda, which produced cacao, citrus and other fruits, and rice. Since the 1969 agrarian reform, intensive commercial cultivation of sugarcane has predominated. In 1991, 13,400 hectares of the Batán Grande became a protected reserve. This national park attracts both scholars and tourists from around the world interested in the archeological ruins, flora, and fauna found in the region.

The extensive forest of algarrobo (Prosopis pallida) situated in the western portion of Batán Grande is the largest (at least 25 square miles) of its kind remaining on the Peruvian coast today. Protected as the Poma National Archaeological and Ecological Reserve, it provides a refuge area for diverse fauna that has largely disappeared elsewhere on the coast, such as iguana, squirrels, anteaters, parrots and numerous other bird species, and even boa constrictors. The reserve also protects at least thirty major archaeological sites (spanning ca. 2000 bce to 1532 ce), including the site of Sicán, the capital of the Middle Sicán religious state that controlled or influenced much of the Peruvian coast from circa 900 to 1100 ce. Cemeteries around these mounds contain numerous shaft tombs endowed with impressive quantities of precious and base metal objects. Organized grave looting, beginning in the 1930s—some of the worst ever seen in the New World—has brought infamy to the region.

Batán Grande was a major pre-Hispanic metallurgical center from circa 900 ce up to the time of the Spanish Conquest. In fact, the name Batán Grande derives from the numerous metal-working tools in its vicinity. The batán is a large anvil stone with a shallow central concavity used in conjunction with a rocking stone, called a chungo, to crush ore for and slag from arsenical copper (a type of bronze) smelting.

At the time of the Conquest, local inhabitants spoke the now extinct Muchik language and belonged to the ethnic polities of Jayanca and Túcume, according to Sebastián de la Gama's Visita de Jayanca (1540).

See alsoSicán .


Paul Kosok, Life, Land, and Water in Ancient Peru (1965), pp. 115-180.

Susan Ramírez, "Social Frontiers and the Territorial Base of Curacazgos," in Andean Civilization and Ecology, edited by Shozo Masuda, Izumi Shimada, and Craig Morris (1985), pp. 423-442.

Izumi Shimada, "Temples of Time: The Ancient Burial and Religious Center of Batán Grande, Peru," in Archaeology 34, no. 5 (1981): 37-45.

Izumi Shimada, "Cultural Continuities and Discontinuities on the Northern North Coast, Middle-Late Horizons," in The Northern Dynasties: Kingship and Statecraft in Chimor, edited by Michael E. Moseley and Alana Cordy-Collins (1990), pp. 297-392.

Izumi Shimada and Jorge Montenegro, Cultura Sicán: Dios, riqueza y poder en la Costa Norte del Perú. Lima: Fundación del Banco Continental para el Fomento de la Educación y la Cultura, Edubanco, 1995.

                                     Izumi Shimada