Treasures of Northern Peru – Chan Chan and Trujillo
Trujillo is known as “the city of eternal spring” due to its near perfect weather year round – with sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures. Located on the northern coast of Peru it is a historic city in an area that has been inhabited for thousands of years. It may be this ideal climate that has made it so idylic.
Modern Trujillo, is at its core a walled colonial city that was founded by conquistador Diego de Almagro in 1534. Trujillo has twice served as capital of Peru and was the birthplace of the Peruvian Justice System.
Visiting Trujillo offers visitors to discover lovely beautiful beaches, renowned culture, as well as archaeological sites like the Moche’s Huacas de la Sol y Luna ( Temple of Sun and Moon), the largest pre Colombian city in the Americas, Chan Chan. Trujillo is an diverse destination and it’s friendly people make it a wonderful place to spend a night or two while visiting Peru’s Kingdom’s of the North.
Peru is home to a number of fascinating archaeological sites. Peru has been home to numerous cultures for thousands of years and due to its dry coastal climate many ancient treasures many of them have been preserved allowing today’s visitors to glimpse into the colorful cultures and their magnificent works of art.
A lesser known sites is a short 15 minute drive south of Trujillo is one of the most spectacular. The Huacas de la Sol y Luna are located in a valley along the Moche River. The huacas are adobe pyramids built by the Moche Culture approximately 1500 years ago. The Temple of the Moon is the smaller of the two temples and is located in front of Cerro Blanco in a North-South Orientation and served as the religious center for the city. While the Temple of the Sun is the newer and larger of the two temples has an east-west orientation, is located in front of Cerro Negro and served as the administration center. The two Huacas are separated by a valley approximately 500 square meters wide that served as the Moche Capital City.
Restoration of the Temple of the Moon began in 1991 and the site was opened to visitors in 1995, while restoration of the Temple of the Sun is scheduled to begin in 2011. Visiting the sites includes a visit to the museum located near the entrance of the Temple of the Moon. The University of Trujillo Museum has an excellent collection of artifacts collected from the site as well as several multimedia presentations of the Moches including their art, architecture and religion.
Thanks to the Moches belief system, the Temple de Luna is one of the most interesting archeological visits in the Americas. The Moches built the pyramids in levels. Each approximately 100 years they would build a new pyramid completely encompassing the old pyramid. To do so they would fill the old structure will adobe bricks and then plaster over the bricks to seal off the old and make way for the new. As a result when archaeologist began studying the site some 20 years ago, they began peeling back layers and uncovering the original art work of the Moches, tombs, ceramics, and other ornaments. Their work has been solely to discover and preserve the site for the future – there has been no restoration or “reinterpretation” of the pyramid as is seen at many of the other archaeological sites.
Development of the site – the two pyramids and the city in between has been done completely with private funding from individuals, foundations, the university and companies. Much of the work is done by students both locally and from aboard. The Temple of the Moon is a fascinating site well worth the visit and we can only believe that once work begins on the Temple of the Sun and the wonders of that site are made available to the public, that it will become one of the most popular destinations in Peru.
Prior to the Incas the Chimu Culture lived in the fertile valley area near modern day Trujillo in northern Peru. Descendants of the great Moche Culture who built the great Pyramids of Sol y Luna the Chumu Culture had some similarities to the Moche and some distinct differences in the way they lived. Like the Moche the Chimu lived off the fruit of the sea, they used adobe as their main construction material, they decorated their construction and their ceramics with paintings done in yellows, reds, blacks and whites.
However unlike the Moche’s the Chamu did not build enormous pyramids with the city between them – the Chimu built Chan Chan. At 7.7 square miles Chan Chan was the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas. The city was built with a triangular shaped walled city with the outside protective walls stretching 50 – 60 feet in to the air. It was comprised of 10 walled citadels which housed palaces, burial chambers, temples, boulevards, ceremonial plazas and springs were dug and reservoirs created so that they would have fresh water. The exterior walls made the city so impregnable that even after a lengthy 10 year war, the only way the Inca’s were capable of conquering the city was to finally cut off water supply by breaking the aqueduct system that had been built to provide water to the farms and city.
The Chimu so hated the Incas that when the Spanish arrived they welcomed them with open arms. Francisco Pizzaro and Diego de Almagro established the neighboring city of Trujillo named after Pizzaro’s home in Spain. The Chimu quickly abandoned Chan Chan and the once great city laid in waste to the environment. Winds and rain during years of el Ni?Ã¯Â¿Â½o would deteriorate the city’s walls and the colorful murals. For hundreds of years there it sat until in 1969 a Harvard mission headed by Michael E. Moseley came to study Chan Chan.
Today mapping of the site is incomplete and archaeological exploration has only just begun. A restoration effort is underway reconstructing much of the city to look as it did during the time of the Chimu. Visiting Chan Chan is one of the highlights in the northern kingdoms of Peru. Currently only the Tschudi Palace is open to visitors. However as you enter the site you can see the once great city has been cut in half by the Pan-American highway only to imagine how awe inspiring it must have been.