THE MOCHE AND CHIMU KINGDOMGS
Recent archaeological findings show that in the La Libertad region coastal area there were ancient civilizations that in many ways were just as important as those of the Incas, Mayas or Aztecs. Most of their legacy of major monuments and temples is located only a few minutes from the city of Trujillo, capital of this region and located 45 minutes from Lima by air or 7 hours by inter-provincial bus. The median temperature here in summer is 24°Celsius, while the climate is mild and sunny all year round, giving it the name of the "Springtime Capital". It possesses a large number of archaeological remains showing its settlement and the development of complex civilizations, among which the most important were:
The citadel of Chan - Chan
This largest adobe city in the world, with its 20 sq km surface area, declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity, seems to have been quite functional and formally built, in a similar manner to the Necropolis of Gizeh and diametrically opposite to the walled cities of Babylon. It is located practically within the present city of Trujillo (Chan- Chan, in the Chimu tongue means "Sun-Sun"), and is presumed to have been the capital of the vast Chimu empire, having been built between the 12th and 13th centuries of our era. It includes cemeteries, residential neighborhoods, palaces, gardens and platforms used for religious or popular ceremonies, all surrounded by walls up to 12 meters in height, ornamented with exquisite high-relief geometrical and animal designs.
This complex developed in the low Moche valley, from the first nucleus which was the citadel of Cayhuac and the pyramid of El Higo, collecting around itself ten monumental citadels. Its total population at its historical peak of development is estimated to have been 26,400 inhabitants, of which 10,500 were artisans of both sexes; they also had a large system of irrigated farmland, as well as caravans of camelids supplying the city from farms with the raw materials for its production, foodstuffs and all necessary items for its permanent activity. Chan Chan, like the Egyptian necropolises, had large neighborhoods of artisans and officials around the pyramids and funerary palaces, in charge of maintaining the cult of their dead sovereign, deified for centuries after his death.
The Pakatnamu Complex
Located on an elevated plateau between the sea and the valley, Pakatnamu is one of the largest and most beautiful Chimu, Lambayeque and Mochica sites. It was defended by two large walls and high cliffs, covering an area of more than 1.5 km2. Studies have proved that this monument adopted its current appearance during the Lambayeque period. Its purpose has not yet been clearly determined, although the evidence suggests it may have been used for complex ceremonies, including human sacrifices, indicating it must have been a major ceremonial complex.
Huaca or Temple of the Kings
Going back up the Moche river to its source, one comes across a temple complex that, according to tests precedes the construction of Chan-Chan by 2,000 years; this 200 ha complex, hidden among the mounds in a place called Caballo Muerto (Dead Horse), was built during the second millennium BC, requiring an amount of labor equivalent to 350,000 man/hours per day. It is thought to have been one of the political and religious centers of the Cupisnique culture, admired for its beautifully decorated ceramics that are aoften confused with those of Chavin. However, dates from Carbon 14 testing indicate that the Cupisnique style persisted after the disappearance of the culture.
Temples of the Sun and the Moon
The Reign of Chimor (the original name), had its origin in the culture known as Moche, that occupied the valley of that name, or "Mochica" in the pre-Hispanic tongue spoken in the neighboring region of Lambayeque, a culture that developed between the 2nd and 8th centuries AD along 700 km of coastline between Piura and Huarmey.
This complex was the most important Mochica power center, located 8 km from Trujillo on the left bank of the Moche river. Its main buildings are currently named the Temples (Huacas), of the Sun and the Moon. The "Huaca del Sol" (Temple of the Sun) was the largest of the pre-Hispanic pyramids (its original volume being comparable with those of the Egyptian pyramids of Saqqara); it is estimated that around 143 million adobe bricks were used in its construction. However, around the year 1602 some treasure hunting vandals deviated the Moche river to split the "Huaca del Sol" in two, thus destroying a large part of the building.
A detailed description of the complex would be too lengthy. However, a few facts will serve to illustrate its magnitude: the successive stages in which it was built are clearly visible, each new stage being built around and over the previous one, covering the existing rooms carefully: the high platforms were built by stacking rectangular prefabricated adobe columns against each other. In the case of the "Huaca de la Luna" (Temple of the Moon), it consists of three independent ceremonial complexes, each with a system of restricted entrances, walled-in patios and rooms with ceilings; its walls were decorated with polychrome relief designs that are still in undeniably good condition.
Huaca de Cao
The Mochica political and religious capital in the Chicama Valley, richer in agricultural land and water that that of Moche, was probably in Cao, where two pyramidal structures stand facing each other on the seashore. One of them (El Brujo) is notable for the richness of the well-preserved polychrome relief on its walls.
In the Cao pyramids, the same system of construction in stages was used as in the Huaca de La Luna, with passageways and rooms following on each other at the top of the building. Many of them are decorated with polychrome designs and sculptures in relief.
The stages of reconstruction were used in the Huaca de Cao, as they were in the Huaca de la Luna, to build funerary chambers with niches. It is possible that every stage of reconstruction was directly related to the death of some important authority within their society.
The Temple of Paņamarca
The images of fierce warriors engaged in combat for many years conveyed the impression that the Mochica Culture was a military and slaveholding one. However, the results of research on their iconography have cast some doubt on this conclusion, the current theory being that their religious cult was the major cohesive force bringing together a multi-ethnic civilization that lived in relative peace and harmony. The complex power ideology reflected in the rich Moche iconography might even be an indication of a cohesive grouping of several multi-ethnical Moche states.
The most important building on the southern frontier of the Moche states is not a fortress, but rather a temple, that of Paņamarca (located in the valley of Nepeņa). It is a highly scenic cluster of mounds above the sugar cane fields.
The Galindo Pyramids
The climate change produced in the South American glacier-forming period means that the 7th and 6th centuries BC brought difficult times for the inhabitants of the north coast of the continent (the area currently going from Barranca to Ecuador); however, the Moche Culture was able to defend itself from the ravages of nature, while the political effect of this weather change was felt by the different plains populations which were forced to carry out major movements of migration, especially due to the threat they felt from the encroachment of the "sierra" cultures, that were beginning to build their new capital cities in strategic locations equidistant from their agricultural irrigation and defense points. This is the context leading the Moche authorities to make the decision of building a major settlement around the Galindo area, where one can currently see a system of walls that were probably used for defense. This complex was of more political importance in the 7th and 8th centuries AD than that of the Huacas of the Sun and Moon (The civilization of the Moche culture became extinct in the 8th century AD).
To understand the cultural idiosyncrasy of the "sierra" invaders, whose incursion contributed to the fall of the Mochica civilization, one must visit the Sierra de la Libertad, very close to the Marka Huamachuco complex (15 minutes from the present city of Huamachuco); The archaeological complex of Viracochapampa was at one time an important Wari administration center, comparable in its size and design with the monuments of Cuzco (Pikillacta). Its typical building unit was a courtyard or "patio", surrounded on three sides by roofed galleries. This important administration center was served by an impressive aqueduct (800 m long by 15 m wide, and 6-10 m high), that crosses the Pampa de la Cuchilla and the circular silos and granaries of Mt Amaro.
The political doctrine of the invaders was probably based on a religious cult originating in Tiawanaku, on the shores of Lake Titicaca (Puno region), since figures surmounted by radiating headdresses and other typically Tiawanaku designs frequently appear on the ceremonial ceramic items found in this area.