Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chán Chán Ruins

So, to take the suspense out of this entire post, we made it to the ancient ruins of the Chimú people, Chán Chán, without a hitch, unlike our attempt to see the ruins of Chavin de Huantar. Granted, they were about an 8 minute taxi ride from our little beach paradise of Huanchaco, but nevertheless, we made it.

For a brief history lesson, these ruins are considered the largest adobe city in the world. There are a total of 9 palaces, each one for successive Chimú kings. Surrounding all 9 of these compounds were very high walls, estimated to be between 27-36 feet high, but have eroded to abou 10-15 feet high. This is quite impressive considering the average height of the Chimú people was barely 5 feet tall, not to mention they are made of adobe. Previously, this area of the northern coast of Peru was occupied by Moche civilizations for 300 years before the Chimú took over. The Chimú became the second largest pre-Columbian society in South America with its empire stretching 620 miles along the coast from where Peru borders Equador, all the way down to Lima. In 1470, after more than a decade of seige and threats to cut irrigation canals, the Chimú surrendered to the Incas.

I could not believe how well the palace we toured, Tshudi, had been restored. Not that I had much to compare it too, except the other 8 palaces we saw driving to Tschudi. To my non-archeologist eye, the 8 other palaces look like mounds of dirt, as none of them are able to be visited by touists. Our guide told us that much of the restoration has been based off of what the Spanish documented when they conquered the Incans here, since there are no other records of this civilization. Makes me wonder how accurate their descriptions were and how much has been lost in translation. She also said that one of the other 8 palaces is a few years away from being adequately restored to tour.

Chán Chán means Sun Sun in Chimú, which makes sense as the entire civilization is in the desert. Most all of the ruins were covered in ocean-related pictures, for lack of a better word because my brain cannot think of what the right word.

The birds are pelicans, the straight lines are thought to be waves and the half of an X you see would have been a lot more ¨x¨s thought to represent fishing nets. The pelicans are all over and as our guide said, helped the Chimú fish because where there were pelicans, there were fish.

I found these designs to be the most interesting. You can see pelicans on the left in more of a swimming pose. To the left of this half wall in the middle was about 15 feet of space, all with the fish swimming right. To the right of the half wall was the rest of a long hallway (30-40 feet), with fish swimming left. Nothing the Spanish recored, or archeologist could determine why this was built this way, until they consulted local fishermen in the tiny town of Huanchaco. The fishermen suggested it was depicting the currents, a smaller one (represented on left) and the larger one (represented on right). Pretty incredible.

The Incas seem to have copied much of the Chimú culture, including their creation story (very similar to Chimú) as well as much of their architecture, most notably the wider base of the exterior walls to create stability and strengthen against attack.

Even the famous Incan symbol, the Chakana, as graphically pictured above, looks an awful lot like the picture of the remaining ruins below

This is only half of the Chimú symbol, as much of it has eroded. It is the exact same on top, if you can picture it.

This was also very interesting, as the Chimú people figured out how to irrigate and use deep wells to get water to their different palaces via irrigation canals. It was so bizarre to see water and green-ness in the middle of the desert.

After seeing the Tschudi palace, we took a taxi to see the Chimú´s Rainbow Pyramid (also known as the Dragon Pyramid), which is located on the NW side of Trujillo.

The depicted rainbows are of great interest to archeologists because the area rarely ever gets rain, and therefore rarely has rainbows.

For some reason, I was under the impression we would be able to go inside the pyramid, but nope. We were the only ones there, and simply walked around it and on top of it. Is it still a pyramid if it is flat on top?

Not super exciting, but just a flat top that really isn´t very big.

View of the mountains from the top of the Rainbow Pyramid.

Despite disappointment of how small the pyramid was and not being able to go inside, I did get to see the biggest spider of my life. Yikes!

Well, that about wraps up our ruin adventures during our time at the beach. Up next: last few photos of Huanchaco, then stories of sandboarding and wine tasting in the desert, south of Lima, in the tiny oasis town of Huacachina. Hopefully, at least one or two posts happen tomorrow, as Monday, we leave Cusco for our Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu!

1 comment:

  1. Love your captions! You actually need to show me how to do captions in blogspot. Lol. Nice little history lesson! So glad you shared.
    Love you!


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