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The Chimú were the residents of Chimor with its capital at the city of Chan Chanmarker, a large adobe city, in the Moche valley of Trujillomarker, Perumarker. The Inca ruler Tupac Inca Yupanqui led a campaign which conquered the Chimú around 1470 AD, just fifty years before the arrival of the Spanish in the region. Spanish chroniclers were able to record accounts of Chimú culture from individuals who had lived before the Inca conquest. Archaeological evidence suggest that Chimor grew out of the remnants of Moche culture; early Chimú pottery had some resemblance to Moche pottery. Their ceramics are all black and their metalwork is very detailed and intricate.

The Chimú resided in the north coast of Perumarker: "It consists of a narrow strip of desert, 20 to 100 miles wide, between the Pacific and the western slopes of the Andes, crossed here and there by short rivers which start in the rainier mountains and prvide a series of green and fertile oases." (30) The valley plains are very flat and well suited to irrigation, which is probably as old as agriculture here. Fishing was also very important and was almost considered as important as agriculture.

The Chimú were also known for worshiping the moon, unlike the Inca who worshiped the sun. The Chimu viewed the sun as a destroyer. This is likely due to the harshness of the sun in the desert environment they lived in. Offerings played an important role in religious rites, and one common object for offerings as well as an item used by artisans was the shell of the Spondylus shellfish, which lives only in the warm coastal waters off Ecuador and is associated with the sea, rainfall, and fertility. Spondylus were also highly valued and traded by the Chimú.

The Chimú are best known for their distinctive monochromatic pottery and fine metal working of copper, gold, silver, bronze, and tumbago (copper and gold). The pottery is often in the shape of a creature, or has a human figure sitting or standing on a cuboid bottle. The shiny black finish of most Chimú pottery is not achieved by using glazes, but instead is achieved by firing the pottery at high temperatures in a closed kiln which prevents oxygen from reacting with the clay.

There are also several examples of Chimú pottery depicting homosexual acts.


Chimu Language is a Peruvian pre-Columbian language that disappeared from the area before the beginning of the Chimu Empire. Quingnam was spoken by ethnic Chimu, who lived in the former territories of the Mochicas: an area North of Chicama Chao River Valley. At the height of Chimú conquests, the language was spoken extensively from the Jequetepeque river in the North, to the Carabayllo (near Lima) in the South. It was the language that prevailed in the Chimu culture. Quignam was related to the language of the Mochica, muchik. The Chimu spoke Mochica or muchik as the common language, while Chimú fishermen had a dialect referred to as "fisherwoman language" by the Spanish missionaries.

The Quingnam language became extinct shortly after the arrival of the conquistadors primarily due to:

  1. The core Chimu city, Chan Chanmarker, was in the vicinity of the new Spanish city of Trujillo.
  2. The area of transmission was much smaller than the influence of the Mochica language: Quignam was only spoken by the elite Chimu in territories belonging to the Chimu empire. There was Quingnam in Tumbes, Piura and most Lambayeque, who was mochicahablante. Quingnam was spoken overwhelmingly in the coastal strip from Jequetepeque until Huaral river or Ancón and, at the most optimistic, until the river Chillón (Carabayllo).
  3. Most speakers were killed by epidemics brought by the Spaniards.
  4. Many left Quingnam to speak a dialect brought by the Spaniards. Although the Mochica language was guttural, Quingnam was much more guttural and rugged.
  5. The Quingnam speakers who survived epidemics were uprooted from their native places. Indigenous people were bought by the Spanish as a means of easy exploitation. They were more efficient labor in estates and obrajes.
  6. The "heart" of Quingnam language (where it was most widely spoken) was the capital of the Chimu Empire: Chan Chanmarker.

Early Chimú (Moche Civilization)

The oldest civilization present on the North coast of Perumarker is Early Chimú. Early Chimú is also known as the Moche or Mochica civilization. The start of the Early Chimú time period is not known (although it was BC) it ends around 500 A.D., though. It was centered in the Chicama, Moche, and Viru valleys. "Many large pyramids are attributed to the Early Chimu period." (37) These pyramids are built of adobes, mold made, and rectangular.

"Early Chimu cemeteries are also found without pyramid associations. Burials are usually in extended positions, in prepared tombs. The rectangular, adobe-lined and covered tombs have niches in their walls in which bowls were placed." (39)

The Early pottery is also characterized by realistic modeling and painted scenes.

Expansion and Rule


The Chimú culture was developed in the same territory where the Mochica existed centuries before. Like the Mochica culture, the Chimu was a coastal culture. It was developed in the Moche Valley South of Lima, Northeast of Huarmey, and finishing in Central Trujillo, before later expanding to Arequipamarker.

The Chimú appeared in the year 900 A.D: "The City of Chimor was at the great site now called Chanchan, between Trujilo and the sea, and we may assume that Taycanamo founded his kingdom there. His son, Guacri-caur, conquered the lower part of the valley and was succeeded by a son named Nancen-pinco who really laid the foundations of the Kingdom by conquering the head of the valley of Chimor and the neighboring valleys of Sana, Pacasmayo, Chicama, Viru, Chao and Santa." (39)

The estimated founding date of the Chimú Kingdom is thought to be somewhere in the first half of the 14th century. Nacen-pinco was believed to have ruled around 1370 and is followed by 7 unknown rulers. Minchancaman follows these rulers and was ruling around the time of the Inca conquest (between 1462 and 1470). This great expansion is believed to have occurred during the late period of Chimú civilization, called: Late Chimú. but the expansion of the Chimú was ongoing and spanned a number of phases and more than a single generation. Nacen-pinco, "may have pushed the imperial frontiers to Jequetepeque and to Santa, but conquest of the entire region was an agglutinative process initiated by earlier rulers." (17)

The Chimú expanded to include a vast area and many different ethnic groups. At its peak, the Chimú advanced to the limits of the desert coast, to the Jequetepeque Valley in the North, and Carabayallo in the South. Their expansion Southward was stopped by the military power of the great valley of Lima, although it is contested how far South they managed to expand.


The Chimú society was a four-level hierarchical system, with a powerful elite rule over administrative centers. The hierarchy was centered at the walled-cities, called ciudadelas, at Chan Chanmarker. The power at Chan Chanmarker is evident from the labor necessary to undertake the Chimú's canal and field construction.

Chan Chanmarker operated at the top of the Chimu hierarchy, with Farfán in the Jequetepeque Valley as a subordinate. This organization, which was quickly established during the conquest of the Jequetepeque Valley suggests that they established this system of hierarchy during the early stages of their expansion. The nobility at peripheral locations such as the Jequetepeque Valley and other centers of power were incorporated into the Chimú government on lower levels of the hierarchy. These lower-order centers managed land, water, and labor, while the higher-order centers either moved the resources to Chan Chanmarker or carried out other administrative decisions. Rural sites were used as engineering headquarters while the canals were being built and were later sites for managing their maintenance. A large amount of broken bowls found at Quebrada del Oso supports this idea, as the bowls were probably used to feed the large workforce that built and maintained that section of canal. These workers were probably fed and housed at state expense.

There were social classes governed by a state until imperial Sican conquered the kingdom of Lambayequemarker. The fantastic legends of war were passed on from Naylamp in Sican and Tacayanamo in Chimú. The people paid tribute to the rulers with products or labor. By 1470, the Chimu were defeated by the Incas in Cuzco. In addition to moving Minchancaman to Cuzco, gold and silver went to adorn the Temple of the Sun.


True bureaucracy developed at Chan Chanmarker as the result of controlled access to information. The economic and social system operated through the import of raw materials, where they were processed into prestige goods by artisans at Chan Chanmarker. Most other matters concerning organization, monopolizing production of products, storage of products, and distribution or consumption of goods were managed in Chan Chanmarker.

The majority of the citizens in each ciudadela were artisans. In the late Chimú there were about 12,000 artisans in Chan Chan alone). They engaged in fishing, agriculture, craft work, and trade. Artisans were forbidden to change their profession, and were grouped in the ciudadela according to their area of specialization. Because of the sudden increase in Chimú craft production, it is suspected that the artisans were brought to Chan Chanmarker from another area taken as a result of Chimú conquest. Since there has been evidence of both metalwork and weaving in the same domestic unit, it is likely that both men and women were artisans. They engaged in fishing, agriculture, and metallurgy; and made ceramics and textiles (from cotton, llama, alpaca, and vicuna wool). People used reed fishing canoes, hunted, traded using bronze coins.


Chimu mantle, Late Intermediate Period, 1000 - 1476 AD.
Design is alternating pelicans and tuna fish.

Spinning is the elementary practice of attaching a small set of threads to achieve a long and continuous thread with the use of an instrument called a spindle. The zone is an instrument made of a small wand that usually gets thinner at both ends; that was used alongside a tortera or piruro. The spindle is inserted into the bottom to make a counterweight. It starts spinning, taking the rueca (where the fiber was set to be spun). Fibers that are laid down in the zone are quickly turned between the thumb and index fingers and twisted to interlock the fibers, creating a long thread. After the desired lengths of threads are attained, the threads are intersected and woven in various combinations to make fabrics. The Chimu embellished their fabrics with brocades, embroidery, fabrics doubles, and painted fabrics. Sometimes textiles were adorned with feathers and gold or silver plates. Colors were obtained from plants containing tannin, mole, or walnut; minerals such as clay, ferruginosa, or mordant aluminum; as well as animals such as cochineal. The garments are made of the wool of four animals: the guanaco, llama, alpaca, vicuna as well as cotton that grows naturally in seven different colors. The clothing consisted of the Chimu loincloth, sleeveless shirts with or without fringes, small ponchos, as well as tunics.

The majority of Chimú textiles were made from alpaca wool and because of the uniform spin direction, degree of the twist, and colors of the threads, all of the fibers were likely pre-spun and imported from a single location.


Chimú ceramics met two functions: containers for daily domestic use or ceremonial use for offerings at burials. Domestic pottery was developed without higher finishing, while funeral ceramics show more aesthetic commitment. The main features of Chimú ceramics were small sculptures, and manufacturing molded and shaped pottery for ceremonial or daily use. Ceramics were usually stained black, although there are some variations. Lighter ceramics were also produced in smaller quantities. The characteristic brightness was obtained by a rock that previously had been polished. Many animals, fruits, characters, and mystical entities have been represented pictorially on Chimú ceramics.


Metalworking picked up quickly in the late Chimú periods. Some Chimú artisans worked in metal workshops divided into sections for each specialized treatment of metals: plating, gold, stamping, lost-wax, pearl, the watermark, and embossing wooden molds. These techniques produced large variety of objects such as cups, knives, containers, figurines, bracelets, pins, crowns, etc. They used arsenic to harden the metals after they were cast. Large-scale smelting took place in a cluster of workshops at Cerro de los Cemetarios. The process starts with ore that is extracted from mines or a river, which is heated to very high temperatures and then cooled. The result is a group of prills (small round sections of copper, for example) in a mass of slag (other materials which are not useful for metallurgy). The prills are then extracted by crushing the slag, and then melted together to form ingots, which were fashioned into various items.

Although copper is found naturally on the coast, copper was mostly attained from the highlands in an area about 3 days away. Since most of the copper was imported, it is likely that most of the metal objects that were made were likely very small. The pieces, such as wires, needles, digging stick points, tweezers, and personal ornaments, are consistently small, utilitarian objects of copper or copper bronze. The Tumi is one well-known Chimú work. They also made beautiful ritual costumes of gold compounds with plume headdresses (also gold), earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and breastplates.

Subsistence and Agriculture

The Chimu developed mainly through intensive farming techniques and hydraulic work, which joined valleys to form complexes such as: The Chicama-Moche complex, which were two valleys in La Libertad. The Lambayeque linked the valleys of La Leche, Lambayeque, Reque, and Saña Jequetepeque. They developed an excellent agricultural techniques which expanded the strength of their cultivated areas. Huachaques were sunken farms where land was withdrawn to work the moist, sandy soil underneath; an example of which is Tschudi. The Chimú used walk-in wells, similar to those of the Nazcamarker, to draw water, and reservoirs to contain the water from rivers. This system increased the productivity of the land, which increased Chimú wealth, and likely contributed to the formation of a bureaucratic system.The Chimú cultivated beans, sweet potato, papaya, and cotton with their reservoir and irrigation system. This focus on large-scale irrigation persisted until the Late Intermediate Period. At this point there was a shift to a more specialized system that focused on importing and redistributing resources from satellite communities. There appears to have been a complex network of sites that provided goods and services for Chimú subsistence. Many of these sites produced commodities that the Chimú could not.Many sites relied on marine resources, but after the advent of agriculture, there were more sites further inland where marine resources were harder to attain. Keeping llamas arose as a supplemental way of attaining meat, but by the Late Intermediate Period and Late Horizon, inland sites used llamas as a main resource, although they maintained contact with coastal sites in order to utilize supplemental marine resources.



In Pacasmayo, the Moon (Si) was the greatest divinity. It was believed to more powerful than the Sun, as it appeared by night and day, and it also controlled the weather and growth of crops. Sacrifices were made to the moon and devotees scarified their own children on piles of colored cottons with offerings of fruit and chicha. They believed that the sacrificed children would become deified and they were usually sacrificed around age five: "Animals and birds were also sacrificed to the Moon".

The Sun was associated with stones called alaec-pong (cacique stone). These stones were believed to ancestors of the people in whose area they stood and sons of the Sun.

Several constellations were also viewed as important. Two of the stars of Orion's Belt were considered to be the emissaries of the Moon. The constellation Fur (the Pleiades) was used to calculate the year and was believed to watch over the crops.

"The Sea (Ni) was a very important divinity and sacrificed of white maize flour, red ochre and other things were made to it along with prayers for fish and protection against drowning." (50)

There were also local shrines in each district, which varied in importance. These shrines are also found in other parts of Perumarker. These shrines (called huacas) had a sacred object of worship (macyaec) with an associated legend and cult.

Mars (Nor), Sol (Jiang) and Earth (Ghisa) were also worshiped.


In 1997[1], members of an archaeological team discovered approximately 200 bodies on the beach at Punta Lobos, Peru. The bodies had their hands bound behind their backs, their feet were bound together, they were blindfolded, and had their throats had been slashed.Archeologists suggest these fisherman may have been killed as a sign of gratitude to the sea god Ni after they conquered the fishermen's fertile seaside valley in 1350 A.D.

Tombs in the Huaca of the Moon belonged to six or seven teenagers from 13-14 years of age. Nine tombs were reported to belong to children. If this is indicative of human sacrifice, the Chimu offered children to their gods.


Carvings of fish in the Tschudi Complex, Chan Chan.

Differential architecture of palaces and monumental sites helped distinguish the rules from the common people. At Chan Chanmarker, there are 10 large, walled enclosures called ciudadelas ,or royal compounds, that are thought to be associated with the kings of Chimor(Day 1973, 1982). They were surrounded by adobe walls 9m high, which gave the ciudadela the appearance of a fortress.

The bulk of the Chimú population (around 26,000 people) lived in barrios on the outer edge of the city. The barrios consisted of many single-family domestic spaces with a kitchen, work space, domestic animals, and storage area.

Ciudadelas frequently have U-shaped rooms that consist of three walls, a raised floor, and frequently a courtyard, and there were often as many as 15 in one palace. In the early Chimú, the U-shaped were found in strategic places for controlling the flow of supplies from storerooms, but it is unlikely that they served as storage areas. They are described as mnemonic devices for keeping track of the distribution of supplies. Throughout time, the frequency of the U-shaped structures increases, and their distribution changes. They become more grouped, rather than dispersed, and occur further away from access routes to resources.The architecture of the rural sites also support the idea of a hierarchical social order. They have similar structural components, making them mini-ciudadelas with rural adapted administrative functions. Most of these sites have smaller walls, with many audiencias as the focial point of the structures. These would be used to restrict access to certain areas and are often found at strategic points.

Chan Chanmarker shows a lack of a unifying plan or a discernible pattern. The urban core contains six principal classes of architecture:
  1. non-elite commoner dwellings and workshops spread throughout the city
  2. intermediate architecture associated with Chan Chanmarker's non-royal elites
  3. ten ciudadelas, thought to be palaces of the Chimú kings
  4. four huacas
  5. U-shaped structures called audiencias
  6. SIAR or small irregular agglutinated rooms, which probably served as the residences for the majority of the population


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