Chimor – Chan Chan


  • Chan Chan
  • Kingdom of Chimor
  • Chimú Empire
  • Chan Chan
  • Cauchan
  • Canda
  • city of snakes
  • city of the moon
  • kanĉa – ‘corral, fence, fenced place’
  • kanĉa-n(i) ‘(place) where fences/ corrals abound

Captains report on various expeditions, including voyages around the country of the Afrites, trading missions to Chimu and Khemi, and encounters with unknown vessels.



  • Time Period: Circa 900 CE to 1470 CE.
  • Location: Northern coast of Peru, encompassing 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of coastline.
  • Conquest: Conquered by the Inca emperor Topa Inca Yupanqui around 1470 CE, fifty years before the Spanish arrived.
  • Capital: Chan Chan.
Chimú pottery and ceramics, Chan Chan, Gold ceremonial dress, a map of Chimú cultural influence within Peru

Origins and Expansion

  • Foundation: According to legend, founded by Taycanamo, who arrived by sea on a balsa raft.
  • Key Rulers:
    • Taycanamo: Founder of the kingdom.
    • Guacricur: Taycanamo’s son, expanded rule over the lower valley.
    • Ñançenpinco: Grandson, expanded the kingdom further.
  • Initial Conquests: Integrated nearby valleys willingly, but conquered the Sican culture.
  • Capital: Chan Chan, believed to be founded by Taycanamo.
  • Peak: Expanded to the limits of the desert coast and included many different ethnic groups and cultures.
7 horns

Culture and Society

  • Religion:
    • Worshipped the moon, considered more powerful than the sun.
    • Associated the Spondylus shell with the sea, rainfall, and fertility.
  • Economy:
    • Relied on agriculture and fishing.
    • Utilized irrigation systems and sunken farms (huachaques).
    • Artisans played a significant role in producing ceramics, textiles, and metalwork.
  • Class System:
    • Four-level hierarchy with elite rulers.
    • Majority of citizens were artisans, working in workshops according to their specialization.
    • Social structure facilitated efficient food production and redistribution.

Technology and Art

  • Pottery: Known for monochromatic pottery with shiny black finishes.
  • Metallurgy:
    • Advanced metalworking in copper, gold, silver, bronze, and tumbaga.
    • Techniques included plating, stamping, lost-wax casting, and embossing.
  • Textiles:
    • Made from alpaca wool and cotton.
    • Adorned with brocades, embroidery, feathers, and precious metals.
  • Shell Artifacts:
    • Highly valued Spondylus shells used for ornaments and ritual objects.
    • Symbolized elite status and divine power.


  • Ciudadelas: Large walled enclosures for the elite, resembling fortresses.
  • Rural Sites: Mini-ciudadelas for administrative functions.
  • Chan Chan: Complex of palaces and workshops, demonstrating social hierarchy.


  • Conquest by the Incas:
    • Inca emperor Topa Inca Yupanqui began the conquest in the 1470s.
    • Final Chimú emperor, Minchançaman, was defeated and taken to Cusco.
  • Legacy: The Chimú were the last kingdom capable of stopping the Inca Empire before their eventual defeat.

Key Points

  • Influences: Significantly influenced by the pre-Inca Cajamarca and Wari cultures.
  • Economic and Political Role: Spondylus shell trade played a crucial economic and political role.
  • Complex Society: Well-developed bureaucracy with elite control over resources and labor.
  • Religious Practices: Included human sacrifices, particularly during times of crisis, such as El Niño events.
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