The Chimú and the Kingdom of Chimor

December 14th, 2007

In the aftermath of the collapse of the the Moche civilisation in the late 700s A.D. a new civilisation was born. In the late 800s until the early 1000s the Chimú culture began to establish itself, reaching it’s peak in the 1200s and lasting until the 1490s when they were conquered by the Incas.

The Chimú set up an empire that stretched from Peru’s border with Ecuador to the region of Lima. In the centre of this 1000km stretch of coast the Chimú built their capital city Chan Chan, which is a corruption of the Mochic words Sian-Sian or Sun Sun. At roughly 18km2 it is the biggest adobe city in the world, and was at the time one of the largest cities in the world.

Like the Moche, the Chimú too built stepped pyramids. These hosted temples on their truncated peaks with a large ramp leading up. These constructions were somewhat more simple than those of the Moche and did not contain anything inside – they were solid formations of hundreds of thousands of mud bricks.

Another thing that differentiates the Chimú from their Moche ancestors is their affinity with the sea. This may be due to one of the myths of the origin of their civilisation or simply due to the fact that they relied heavily on a sea food diet, fishing using their caballitos de totora. Whatever their reason, their constructions and monochrome pottery are covered with decorations showing fish, waves, sea birds and fishing nets. Most of their capital city, Chan Chan is less than a few hundred metres from the ocean and can be heard throughout the city.

After the Chincha culture, the Chimú were the next and final strong nation state the Incas had to conquer to form their massive empire. Also an agricultural-based civilisation, this was the major Chimú weakness when the Incas attacked. On entering the Chimor empire and approaching the city of Chan Chan, the Incas made sure to destroy all the irrigation systems that gave life to the sun-baked arid area. The Inca attack began in 1470 and lasted until 1493 with the defeat of the Chimú, who made sure to heavily destroy their capital city and loot its gold before the Incas did.

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