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Chan Chan: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom

Comprised of high-walled citadels decorated with religious motifs and featuring a tangle of passages leading to ceremonial rooms, reservoirs, burial chambers and temples, this archaeological ghost town is now a haunting token of what once was the mighty Chimu kingdom. In addition, Chan Chan is not only larger than Machu Picchu, but is the largest pre-Columbian city in South America.

The Chimú was the last Peruvian civilization before the rise of the Incan empire, and Chan Chan was its heart, whose inhabitants—the Chimor—numbered up to 30,000. Spread across the northern coast of Peru, Chan Chan extends 5 kilometers (3 mi) west of Trujillo and roughly 20 kilometers (16 mi) wide.

As a society, the Chimor lasted for over 600 years. Legend has it that their first ruler, Taycanamo, arrived on a log raft, wearing a cotton breechcloth and bringing magic yellow powers, proclaiming “a great lord sent him to govern this land from across the sea.” Chan Chan began with Taycanamo's construction of a shrine upon which he used his yellow powders to perform rituals.

Through a combination of military force and irrigation mastery, the city and kingdom founded Aycanamo and expanded and prospered through a succession of nine emperors, converting much of what had been arid into fertile land through creative irrigation. In the course of events, the Chimor also managed to manifest a renaissance in artwork and pottery. The Chimú kingdom prevailed until falling to Incan conquerors in the 15th century, and shortly thereafter, the Spanish. However, in Chan Chan the legacy of their culture has survived. In 1986, UNESCO officially declared Chan Chan a World Heritage Site.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Trujillo: Trujillo History,

By Ricardo Segreda
Growing up in New York, Rick Segreda used to cut out of high school in order to hang out at the Museum of Modern Art and catch foreign-language...
25 Apr 2012

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