Chan Chan

Chan Chan was the political and administrative capital of the Chimu Kingdom.Its original extension covered about 24 km2, nowadays the area has been reduced to 14 Km2, that is why is considered “The World’s largest Mud Brick City ” On November 28, 1986 , Chan Chan was declared “World Heritage” by UNESCO. 

The original name of the city is not known, and its difficult to say the name Chan Chan referred to whole city.

The first chroniclers don't indicate this name, instead they refer to the place like “The City of The Chimo” - name given to the valley - or Palaces of the Gran Chimú.
In 1791, the name Chan Chan appears for first time, in the magazine El Mercurio Peruano, like reference to this archaeological place.

The study of ancient documents indicates that the name Chan Chan, belonged to some saltpeter mine located on the way to Huanchaco, inside Chan Chan.
The meaning of Chan Chan as a Muchic derivative of Jan Jan, Sun Sun, was brought up by Ernst Middendorf (1892).

In the opinion of Zevallos Quiñones, Chenchengo (1679) would had been the oldest antecedent of the actual denomination because in this area the language was the Quingñam.The Muchic was spoken in Lambayeque 

It is calculated between 20 to 30 thousand inhabitants (Kent Day) and the inhabitants of the whole Chimu territory in 500 thousand, according to John Rowe.
According to Middendorf (1894) 100 thousand people lived in Chan Chan. At the time of abandonment, the population would have been from 5 to 10 thousand inhabitants (Kent Day).

It has been possible to recognize three architecture kinds:

1.- Monumental architecture, referred to rectangular fences or citadels that were residence of the upper class and also to the huacas or temples.

2.- Intermediate architecture, belongs to adobe constructions where the members of the low nobility and the local chiefs lived.

3.- Popular architecture,is the most simple, associated to the constructions of cane and mud used by the artisans.

Chan Chan


The city consists of 9 citadels or palaces which have been designated with new names, made official toward 1945. The citadels are distinguished from the other architecture at Chan Chan by their monumental scale, extreme control of access, and formal complexity and elaboration.

For most researchers, the citadels were palaces occupied by kings and these enclosures combined different functions such as: residences of the elite, areas of administration and finally royal tombs.

Chan Chan


There is not agreement on researches about the sequence of the construction. Some of them have proposed that the entire city was built at same time (Lanning 1967), however, most have suggested a construction and sequential occupation.

Different studies have been done to determine the sequence, based on the architecture: U-shape structures (Andrews 1972); funerary platforms (Pozorski 1971); (Conrad 1974); the form of the plan of the citadels (Day 1973) and type of adobe (Kolata 1978, 1982, 1990) which has been the most accepted and functional.

The sequence of construction of Chan Chan it’s possible to be summarized in three stages:

FIRST STAGE (850 - 1100 A.D.)
EIt begins with the construction of the citadel Chayguac ,which has the most simple internal organization, then, the citadel Uhle which presents a more complex planning with presence of administrative offices (audience chambers). This makes evident an economic movement based on the tributes.

SECOND STAGE (1125 - 1370 A.D.)
During this stage is built the citadel Laberinto was built, this event established the structure of the citadels in three parts(tripartite).It built the Gran Chimú citadel, the biggest in Chan Chan, with spacious squares, numerous storerooms and annexes. This shows the centralization of the political and economic power.

THIRD STAGE (1370 - 1470 A.D.)
The size of the citadels is smaller, as well as the space for the storerooms. There is a reduction in the tributes. On the contrary, the officials and state administrators increased considerably, perhaps, with the purpose to obtain more tributes. However, it was difficult to support so many officials in a period of economic crisis. This weakened any resistance against the threat of the Incas.

Chan Chan


According to Geoffrey Conrad, a “dual inheritance” was stablished in Chan Chan. Upon the king's death, his heir only received the political position, while the goods and rents passed to a group of their descendants, since the proprietor continued being the dead king. Therefore, each king had to build his own citadel, to live there with his closer relatives and to organize his own administration with new officials. To make wealth he had to conquer new territories.

The citadels were sacred places of funeral cult, occupied by a group of people who managed the rents of the deceased. According to the scholars this modality should begin during the expansible Chimu time, because there are not evidences at the initial stage. The first citadels were possibly occupied by more than a king.

Chan Chan


When the Spanish arrived in 1534, the city was abandoned and it had lost its political importance. When Huayna Cápac was in Quito he had to counteract a Chimu revolt in Chan Chan, which was repelled with strength. There is evidence that part of the city it was set on fire, and the real family, headed by Huamanchumo was moved on to the town of Mansiche.

Nik An Compound or Tschudi Palace

It is the only open for the tourist visits.Between 1964 - 1970 the archaeologist headed by the Peruvian Francisco Iriarte worked in the cleaning, consolidation and restoration.

Then, in 1972, members of the Chan Chan - Moche Valley Project, the most extensive investigation in the area, led by Michael E. Moseley and Carol J. Mackey of the University of Harvard, realized excavation work.

The name of the citadel is dedicated to Johan Von Tschudi, Swiss scientist, (Glaris, Switzerland 1818 - St. Galler 1889), doctor and diplomat that lived in the Peru from 1838 to 1842.During these years he studied Quechua,made investigations of the indigenous customs, it collected copies of the flora and fauna and other aspects of scientific interest.

Their studies on our country are described in: “Perú.Reiseskizzen aus gives Jahren 1838 - 1842.” (2 volumes, 1846).
The most known publication was the book “Peruvian Antiquity” that was written with the Peruvian Mariano Eduardo de Rivero (Arequipa 1798 - Paris 1857), published in Vienna, in German language (1851).Some plans of the citadel that takes his name were shown them in this publication.

The tour in the citadel is for about one hour. It is very important to take a specialized guide.