Chan Chan Archaeological Zone
The Chan Chan Archaeological Zone was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimú Civilization located in the north coast of Peru 300 miles (480 km) north of Lima in the city of Trujillo. The Chimú absorbed the early civilizations of Wari and Lambayeque and expanded becoming the richest civilization of its time. Its kingdom lasted from around 850 AD to 1470 until they were conquered by the Incas.
The City of Chan Chan is the oldest standing adobe city in the world.
The city of Chan Chan was built around 900 A.D. and reached its pinnacle in the 15th century. It is believed that at its height it had 60,000 residents. This vast citadel was built in the mouth of the Moche Valley and relied on wells and canals to divert water from the Moche River.
This architectural wonder covers about 5.4 sq miles (14 sq kilometers), down from its original 7.7 sq miles (20 sq kilometers). Its unique feature is that it was fully built out of adobe that still stands today. However, erosion due to winds and extreme climatic conditions brought by El Niño are constantly risking its integrity.
The layout of Chan Chan reflects its social, religious and political beliefs based on a hierarchical division. The citadel housed the elite and its family and it is divided into nine walled complexes or palaces. Within each complex there are labyrinths of passageways that lead to temples, dwellings, food storage units, funeral platforms all arranged around a courtyard.
Its adobe walls were decorated with carvings of anthropomorphical and zoomorphical motifs depicting small mammals, birds and fish.
Outside the city walls lived the commoners who were employed in different industries. There are four distinctive industrial sections used for weaving, metal and wood work. Outside of the city complex there are extensive agricultural areas with remnants of their irrigation system that once transported water from the Moche River.
It is important to note that the Incas did not destroy Chan Chan or any other conquered cities, they absorbed them into their own kingdom adopting their best practices into their own culture. Chan Chan was looted and destroyed when the Spaniards arrived in South America.