Archaeology

Perfectly Preserved Chimu Sculpture Found at Chan Chan, Peru

A perfectly preserved Peruvian Chimu culture sculpture in the form of an intriguing wooden figure, has been found at a ceremonial center near Chan Chan, Trujillo in northern Peru. Dated between 850 and 1500 years old, the form and art style of the well-preserved wooden sculpture is from the early Chimu culture period, which was a flourishing pre-Hispanic civilization that called its capital city Chan Chan.

Chan Chan, derived from the Quingnam word Jiang or Chang, which means “sun,” was the largest city in the pre-Hispanic Americas before it was conquered and incorporated into the Inca Empire in 1470 AD. It was pushed into further ignominy after Pizarro’s conquests and the founding of the nearby Spanish city of Trujillo in 1535. Chan Chan was renowned for its great riches and looted frequently by the Spanish.

The well preserved Chimu culture sculpture was found next to a potential new ceremonial structure on the periphery of the giant Chan Chan archaeological complex just outside Trujillo, Peru. ( Decentralized Directorate of Culture of La Libertad / Peruvian government )

The Wooden Chimu Sculpture: Bearer of Sacred Objects

Peru’s Ministry of Culture reported the find last Tuesday, as part of excavation work in the third stage of the “Recovery of the Huaca Takaynamo of the Chan Chan Archaeological Complex” project. Huacas are natural objects or monuments, such as large rocks or even hills, that were given significance and revered by the indigenous of Peru and are found throughout the country.

The recently discovered Chimu   sculpture measured 46 x 16 centimeters (18 x 6.2 inches). It is a human figure, likely a ruler’s ceremonial bearer of ritual objects, wearing a distinctive trapezoid-shaped hat. The statue is described in reports as “ornate,” which seems to be a bit of a stretch. But these things are relative to time and location.

The effigy is decorated with seven vertical, alternating light and dark stripes. The figure has a flat oval face and nose, red in color, and almond-shaped eyes. Originally, this statue was adorned by mother-of-pearl plates attached with black resin glue, probably produced by mollusks. Interestingly, the figure is wearing a small triangular-cut skirt decorated with small rectangular bands, matching the stripes and design on the hat.

“We have found a wooden sculpture in perfect condition belonging to the Chimú culture in the Chan Chan archaeological complex,” archaeologist Arturo Paredes, head of the special state project investigating Chan Chan, said to AFP. He added that the figure is probably a porter, a person who carried sacred objects for the elites in rituals and ceremonies.

The latest Chimu sculpture has its left arm lying close to the body, bent to the right, leaving the outstretched left hand on the front side of the torso. The right arm is bent upwards with the hand on the right shoulder. The hands are painted red, while the chest has dark circular spots on it. The legs lie straight, with the feet slightly apart, whilst the anterior portion has been partially severed, as described in the statement from Peru’s Ministry of Culture.

In addition, nectandra seeds (a genus of plant in the family Lauraceae that has medicinal properties ) and thread fragments were found around the simple wooden Chan Chan sculpture. This suggested that they were probably part of a necklace. A small black bag that had brown and white threads decorating it was found next to the sculpture.

“Chimú wood carvings or sculptures are fixed or mobile. The former are documented at the entrance to some walled complexes of Chan Chan, from an uncarved segment that, when buried, fixes the carved portion of the element to the ground. Mobile sculptures lack this element, and have frequently been documented in some huacas,” Nunez added.

The outlines of the potential new ceremonial structure on the periphery of the Chan Chan complex rising up to the right of the well-imagined ancient wooden Chan Chan sculpture lying faceup on the ground. (Decentralized Directorate of Culture of La Libertad / Peruvian government)

The outlines of the potential new ceremonial structure on the periphery of the Chan Chan complex rising up to the right of the well-imagined ancient wooden Chan Chan sculpture lying faceup on the ground. ( Decentralized Directorate of Culture of La Libertad / Peruvian government )

New Ceremonial Building Evidence on Chan Chan Periphery

The Director of the Chan Chan Archaeological Complex Special Project, César Gálvez Mora explained that there is significant new evidence for the existence of a ceremonial building on the periphery of the main Chan Chan complex.

Janie Gómez, Deputy Minister of Cultural Heritage and Cultural Industries of Peru, said in government statement that “the country could live very well just by valuing its (archaeological) monuments. We have a number and variety of sites with exceptional characteristics.”

The dig, scheduled to last for 8 months, began on April 11th of this year, and is surrounded by the populous district of La Esperanza, about 5 km (3.1 miles) from the modern city of Trujillo, Peru.

Top image: The face of the Chimu culture wooden Chan Chan sculpture recently discovered on the periphery of the giant Chan Chan complex near Trujillo, Peru. Source: Decentralized Directorate of Culture of La Libertad / Peruvian government

By Sahir Pandey


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