The Chimu: Chan Chan

Chan Chan, Peru Largest adobe city ever discovered. Image Credit: HERE
This is a 25th anniversary article on Okh Eshivar 2021

I wrote this article on 5/28/2020 in honor of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. However, beacuse it is the 25th anniversary this year, and the subject is Tomb Raider 1996 for February, I decided to feature this article in honor of the 25th anniversary! I also added the anniversary badge to it due to the fact this article also denotes an item found in the first Tomb Raider game from 1996. There is an image found in the Tomb of Qualopec. Here are a few screenshots I took of the Chimu bird from the game. Additionally this article will define other images from the Chimu culture. Continue reading.

Tomb Raider is a game franchise with a central theme of archaeology. A focus such as this is quite attractive and inviting.  As many are aware, Okh Eshivar contains numerous articles about ancient civilizations encompassing the game franchise. With that said, let us step into the world of the Chimu and their crown jewel of a city recognized as Chan Chan, otherwise, known to the Chimu as Chimor.

The Origin of the Chimu (Chimor)

The Chimu culture began to make their mark in history after the fall of the Moche. (also see my article HERE) They settled in the Moche Valley, Peru, by the Moche river in 950 AD.

Spreading to the North and South, they eventually conquered the Sican culture in 1375 AD. They developed a vast kingdom known as “The Kingdom of Chimor” It reached up and down the Peruvian coast 1300 km (over 800 miles), and it was the largest kingdom in South America of its time. It came to an end by the hand of the Inca culture and fell in 1470 AD under the Inca ruler Tupac Yupanqui.

About Chan Chan (Chimor)

The above slideshow is as follows: Slide one Info and credit: SLIDE 1:Image taken from HERE View of the ruins of adobe walls in ciudadela Nik An, Chan Chan, capital of Chimor, Peru (photo:Veronique Debord,CC BY-SA 2.0) SLIDE 2: Detailed Chimu birds adorn part of one of the citadels in Chan Chan Image Credit: HERE SLIDE 3: Part of a citadel inside the walls of Chan Chan, Peru. Part of one of the citadels of Chan Chan Image credit: HERE SLIDE 4: Detailed walls inside Chan Chan Part of one of the citadels of Chan Chan Image credit: HERE

Chan Chan is the largest adobe city ever discovered and was the centre of the Chimu universe. It was as unique as it was interesting and quite large it encompassed 20 KM² (7.72204 square miles) and had a population of 40,000 during its peak.

The city is comprised of 10 royal citadels. Each labyrinth styled citadel was for the current King. It housed his court, family, guards etc. The large adobe citadels were composed as long hallways leading to courtyards, storage rooms for food and precious jewels and metals as well as ceremonial plazas, cemeteries and residential sections. The citadels of Chan Chan (Chimor) were indeed lavish and served more than being a palatial home for the current ruler, but also his tomb hence why each ruler of Chan Chan had a new citadel made.

Due to the natural erosion of the ancient walled city, in 1986 it was included in the UNESCO registry as a World Heritage site.

The defined designs on the walls of Chan Chan were created by covering the adobe with a smooth type of cement and then carving them in the intricate patterns still admired today. It is thought that the kingdom spread far and wide because of the amassed wealth each King demanded over the years and thus the need for more precious materials, for lavish clothing, objects (art pieces) made of silver and gold, and shell etc. were sought after in distant lands.

Chan Chan forcibly recruited craftsmen approx. Twenty-six thousand from the Lambayeque to make beautiful works of art for the kings. Many of which were collectors and appreciated the beauty of fine artwork.

Here is a most excellent account through many beautiful photos of Chan Chan! These hail from the UNESCO gallery!

The Artwork and Textiles of Chan Chan

The Chimu(Chimor)  basked in beautiful works of art. In particular, the King, who needed to be defined apart from the general populace, was swathed in exquisite clothes and crowns. The farther the reach was in regalia materials, the more that boasted about his riches and ability to acquire items from distant lands.

These are Earflares. A pair such as these would adorn the ears of a king. Image credit found HERE

One of the many fine jewelry pieces is this example of Earflares found at the Met Museum. The scene depicted is a cacique, the equivalent of a lord, wearing a large crescent-shaped headdress and carried on a litter. He is adorned in noble finery with earspools as these on his ears. He is also fanning himself with a large feather fan while holding a beaker. Go HERE for a more detailed account from the Met to learn more!

Image found at the MET MUSEUM and additionally here Here is another fine example of fine craftsmanship in this silver Chimú bottle depicting a throne with figures, 1300–1500, Peru, silver, 23.5 x 11.1 x 16.5 cm
Image Credit: MET Museum

Fit For A King!

The above textile is a feathered Tunic worn by the king. Everything about this piece and others in the kingdom was supervised by an elite in their society. This tunic was comprised of many feathers and some also sport camelid wool. The vivid colored feathers are from birds that inhabit the highlands of the cloud forest such as Macaws, parrots, parakeets, curassows to name a few. This particular piece is made of Muscovy Ducks, Razor-billed Corassows, and Amazona parrots and macaws. The more color they included in there royal garments the better.

Throughout Shadow of the Tomb Raider you will see images that tell of the different cultures in Peru as well as the Yucatan, for the Maya were incorporated into the story line, though they did not inhabit Peru. To read more about related artifacts from the Moche and the game go HERE

And don’t forget to check out my collection of articles at this link: HERE

Thank you for reading, I shall be back with another piece soon.

Explore the World!

~Emma AKA — M. Harris

Further Reading

Moseley, M.E. The Incas and Their Ancestors. Thames & Hudson, 2001.

Jones, D.M. Mythology of the Incas. Southwater, 2007.

Dr. Sarahh Scher, “Introduction to the Chimú culture,” in Smarthistory, October 23, 2017, accessed May 27, 2020,


One thought on “The Chimu: Chan Chan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s