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Chotuna, a major archaeological site located in the lower part of the Lambayeque Valley of northern Peru. It is thought to have been associated with a legendary dynasty, founded by Naymlap, that came to this valley centuries before European contact in the early sixteenth century. According to the legend, Naymlap came by sea on a fleet of balsa rafts, bringing with him many concubines, a chief wife named Ceterni, and many people who followed him as their captain and leader. Among the latter were forty officials who served in his royal court.

Naymlap and his followers are said to have beached their boats at the mouth of a river, and then followed that river approximately one-half mile inland. Naymlap built a palace for his principal wife, and nearby, at a place called Chot, he built a palace for himself where he lived for many years. When he was about to die, he had his trusted servants bury him in a room and spread the word among his people that he had grown wings and flown away. Chotuna is thought to be Chot of the Naymlap legend, and Chornancap, another archaeological site approximately one-half mile west of Chotuna, is thought to be where Naymlap built the palace for Ceterni.

Today, the site of Chotuna consists of a series of pyramids, palaces, and walled enclosures scattered over an area of approximately 50 acres. In 1941 grave robbers at Chotuna uncovered walls with elaborate low-relief friezes. Their designs were so similar to friezes at Dragon, an archaeological site in the Moche Valley, approximately 110 miles to the south, that it was thought that the two sites were somehow related. Major excavation at Chotuna between 1980 and 1982 revealed that the site was first inhabited approximately 700 ce, and continued to be occupied until 1100, when a major period of flooding destroyed much of the ancient architecture. After 1100 the site was reoccupied by people with different ceramics who lived there until the early part of the Colonial Period, around 1650. If Naymlap was a real person, his story probably relates to the founding of the site, and the period prior to the flooding. The friezes date to the period after the flooding, probably between 1100 and 1250.

See alsoArchaeology .


Alfred L. Kroeber, Peruvian Archaeology in 1942 (1944).

Christopher B. Donnan, "An Assessment of the Validity of the Naymlap Dynasty" and "The Chotuna Friezes and the Chotuna-Dragon Connection," in The Northern Dynasties: Kingship and Statecraft in Chimor, edited by Michael E. Moseley and Alana Cordy-Collins (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Cavallaro, Raffael and Izumi Shimada. "Some Thoughts on Sican Marked Adobes and Labor Organization." American Antiquity 53, no. 1 (Jan. 1988): 75-101.

Davies, Nigel. The Ancient Kingdoms of Peru. New York: Penguin Books, 1997, pp. 88-90.

                                 Christopher B. Donnan