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  Chan Chan
    Following El Brujo, we moved forward through prehistory to the Chimú and their Late Intermediate capital of Chan Chan. Chan Chan was far too large to view from any single point, and even crossed over to the other side of the Pan-American Highway. In fact, we did not even succeed in exploring the entirety of a single ciudadela-the administrative hub and elite quarters of the Chimú rulers. This ciudadela had immense adobe walls surrounding the perimeter and plazas within, most of which were decorated with three-dimensional geometrically stylized designs. The origination of the geometric style was in woven textiles, where artisans are confined to using different colored squares of material. Upon entering, one must follow a long corridor and then turn into a large, symmetrical open plaza. After this, more corridors bring you by the audiencias-smaller rooms with u-shaped throne structures. Beyond the audiencias lay storage rooms, a second, smaller plaza, and finally, the burial platform. There was little left to see here after the huaqueros looted it, but it gave a good vantage point to see the site. The most impressive structure in the compound was the garden, where the Chimú dug the floor down to the water table to make it possible to practice agriculture within the compound. This area was filled with enough water to be considered miniature wetlands when we visited it. Two areas we were unable to explore were the servants' quarters with a walk-in well, and the actual elite residences. One purpose of the ciudadelas is certain-restricted access. I found it difficult to get from one place to another among the wandering corridors without losing my way, so with just a handful of armed guards, the rulers of the Chimú could have kept anyone out of their palace. Hopefully archeologists are let in to do work in the future, though, since it seems there are multiple phases of construction under some of the ciudadelas, as seen in the stratigraphy of huaqueros' pits.

Cerro Blanco
    Back again to the Moche culture, we visited the first Moche capital, Cerro Blanco. The entire city is buried under sand with the exception of the Huaca de la Luna and Huaca del Sol (the largest adobe structure in the new world). Everything we were able to see in the Huaca de la Luna was remarkably similar to El Brujo, except on a larger scale. Again, we had different phases of construction built on top of one another, painted friezes, mostly of the decapitator, and a few burials. One aesthetic element of Moche art clearly visible here was their alternation of colors. In one painting, the decapitator would be blue on a yellow background, and in the next, the colors would be reversed. This applied to almost all of their repeated patterns. Also regarding paint, the adobe huacas easily blend into the landscape of browns and grays today, looking like dunes or hills from a distance. However, it seems the Moche painted the exterior walls with solid bright yellows, reds, and even white where friezes were not already constructed. I can only imagine what a red and yellow-striped pyramid would have looked like on the dreary coastal landscape. There was not much to see in the Huaca del Sol, since the Spanish swept half the pyramid away by diverting the nearby river.

©2002 Joseph Holler -