Chan Chan Citadel Entrance
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Chan Chan

Chan Chan The Chan Chan Archaeological Complex is the largest mud city of the Americas. It lies in the Moche valley near the colorful city of Trujillo in northwestern Peru. The site covers an area of approximately 20 square kilometers (7,8 square miles).

The Central Zone is formed by 10 walled "citadels" and other pyramids. It covers an area of 6 square kilometers (2,3 square miles). The rest of the site is formed by a multitude of small structures (not very well conserved) such as walkways, canals, walls and cemeteries.

Chan Chan was constructed by the Chimor (the kingdom of the Chimú), a late intermediate period civilization which grew out of the remnants of the Moche civilization.

The vast mud city of Chan Chan was built between c.850 and c.1470 and was the imperial capital until Chimor was conquered by the Inca in the 15th century.


Detail of Chan Chan It is estimated that 30,000 people lived in the city of Chan Chan. The walls themselves were constructed of adobe brick, and were then covered with a smooth cement into which intricate designs were carved. There are two styles of design present in these carvings: one is a ‘realistic’ representation of subjects such as birds, fish, and small mammals; and the other is a more graphic, stylized representation of the same subjects.

The form in which Chan Chan was constructed confirms that this was a highly organized city where the different social classes occupied different areas and buildings.

As mentioned before there are 10 "citadels" and it is interesting to note that 9 of them share the same characteristics:
- rectangular walled areas
- oriented to the North
- divided in three sectors
- the main entrance is on the North side
- they have plazas, lakes, funeral platforms

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Chan Chan was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The city is severely threatened by erosion from El Niño, which causes heavy rains and flooding on the Peruvian coast.

Present-day visitors to Chan Chan can enter the Tschudi Complex, believed to be one of the later citadels built in the city. There are also several other Chimú and Moche ruins in the area around Trujillo.

City lay-out of Chan Chan
Copyright of this image by Lizardo Tavers


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© All photographs by Mark Van Overmeire