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Chan Chan

Chan Chan
Chan chan view, capital of Chimor
Chan chan wall Chan chan wall
Adobe detail at Chan Chan Chan Chan
Chan Chan panel
Pelican in chan chan Chan Chan Chanchan carvings
From top: Chan chan view, capital of Kingdom Chimu, Chan chan walls, Adobe detail at Chan Chan, Panel of warriors detail of wall , Pelican in chan chan, Chan Chan Model, a wall in Chan Chan
Map showing location in Peru
Map showing location in Peru
Shown within Peru
Location La Libertad Region, Peru
Founded AD 850
Cultures Chimor
Official name Chan Chan Archaeological Zone
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii
Designated 1986 (10th session)
Reference no. 366
Region Latin America and the Caribbean
Endangered 1986–present

The largest Pre-Columbian city in South America, Chan Chan is an archaeological site in the Peruvian region of La Libertad, 5 km west of Trujillo.[1] Chan Chan was the capital of the historical Chimú culture.

Visitors to Chan Chan can enter the Tschudi Complex, a later citadel. Other Chimú and Moche ruins are also in the area around Trujillo.

Chan Chan, capital of kingdom Chimu.


  • Geography 1
  • History 2
    • World Heritage Site 2.1
    • Conservation plan 2.2
  • Architecture 3
  • Irrigation 4
  • Threats 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


Chan Chan covers 20 km² and had a dense urban center of 6 km².[2]

Chan Chan is in a fertile, well-watered section of the coastal plain.[3]


Chan Chan was constructed by the Chimú, a late intermediate period civilization which grew out of the remnants of the Moche civilization. The adobe city of Chan Chan, the largest in the world, was built around 850 CE and lasted until its conquest by the Inca Empire in 1470. It was the imperial capital where 30,000 people lived.

This site was discovered by conquistador Francisco Pizarro.

World Heritage Site

On 28 November 1986, UNESCO designated Chan Chan as a World Heritage Site.[4]

Conservation plan

In 1998, The "Master Plan for Conservation and Management of the Chan Chan Archeological Complex" was drawn up by the Freedom National Culture Institute of Peru with contributions from the World Heritage Foundation - WHR, ICCROM, and GCI. The plan was approved by the Peruvian Government.


Museum of Chan Chan.

The city has ten walled citadels which housed ceremonial rooms, burial chambers, temples, reservoirs and residences. It is triangular, surrounded by 50–60-foot (15–18 m) walls. There are no enclosures opening north. The tallest walls shelter against south-westerly winds from the coast. North-facing walls have the greatest sun exposure, serving to block wind and absorb sunlight where fog is frequent. The numerous walls throughout the city create a labyrinth of passages.

The walls are adobe brick covered with a smooth surface into which intricate designs are carved. The two styles of carving design include a realistic representation of subjects such as birds, fish, and small mammals, as well as a more graphic, stylized representation of the same subjects. The carvings at Chan Chan depict crabs, turtles, and nets for catching sea monsters. Chan Chan, unlike most coastal ruins in Peru, is very close to the Pacific Ocean.


Ruins of the citadel of Chan Chan in Trujillo, Peru.
Water reserve in Chan Chan.

To increase the farmland surrounding the city, a vast network of canals diverting water from the Moche river was created.[5] It was only with these canals that the city's population could increase. Before the canals, the city relied on wells dug up to 15 meters deep.[6] Many canals to the north were destroyed by a catastrophic flood c. 1100 CE, which was likely the key motivation for the Chimú to refocus their economy to one rooted in foreign resources rather than in subsistence farming.[6]

Chan Chan has water reserves called huachaques.


The ancient structures of Chan Chan are threatened by erosion due to changes in weather patterns — heavy rains, flooding, and strong winds.[7][8]

In particular, the city is severely threatened by storms from El Niño, which cause heavy rains and flooding on the Peruvian coast.[3]

The city's ruins are also threatened by earthquakes and looters.

See also


  1. ^ - Chan Chan, Peru, End of an Empire by Bruce Hathaway
  2. ^ Moore, J. D. (2005). Cultural Landscapes in the Ancient Andes. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  3. ^ a b Otto Holstein (1927). Chan-Chan: Capital of the Great Chimu. Geographical Review 17 (1, January 1927): 36–61. doi:10.2307/208132 (subscription required)
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b The Inca World: The development of pre-Columbian Peru, A.D. 1000-1534 by Laura Laurencich Minelli, Cecilia Bákula, Mireille Vautier – Google Books
  7. ^ Endangered Site: Chan Chan, Peru
  8. ^ Climate Change: Sites in Peril


  • Kubler, George. (1962). The Art and Architecture of Ancient America, Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia Ltd., pp. 247–274.
  • Michael West (1970). Community Settlement Patterns at Chan Chan, Peru. American Antiquity 35 (1, January 1970): 74–86. doi:10.2307/278179 (subscription required)
  • Richard W. Keatinge, Kent C. Day (1973). Socio-Economic Organization of the Moche Valley, Peru, during the Chimu Occupation of Chan Chan. Journal of Anthropological Research 29 (4, Winter 1973): 275–295. doi:10.2307/3629879 (subscription required)
  • John R. Topic, Michael Edward Moseley (1983). Chan Chan: a case study of urban change in Peru. Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology 21: 153–182. doi:10.2307/3629879 (subscription required)
  • Richard L. Smailes (2011). Building Chan Chan: a project management perspective. Latin American Antiquity 22 (1, March 2011): 37–63. doi:10.2307/23072515 (subscription required)

External links

  • UNESCO World Heritage Center: Chan Chan
  • History Channel Classroom: Chan Chan
  • Chan Chan information
  • Chan Chan - Chimu's Desert City (Flash)
  • Heavy Rains Threaten Ancient City in Northern Peru
  • Archaeologists Restore High Adobe Walls in Ancient Chimu City of Chan Chan
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