Chimu Culture


In the Moche Valley north of Lima there was a pre-Inca town called Chimú that dates back to 900 AD . This people was skilled in the construction of buildings and cities, as well as irrigation canals for their crops. Its capital city , Chan Chan, housed more than 60,000 people, being one of the largest in Latin America. The Chimú culture was conquered by the Inca empire and then, 50 years later , its territories were conquered by the Spanish. Despite all these events, today there are ruins of what would be the constructions and crafts of the Chimú people in Peru that are recognized asUNESCO World Heritage Site.


What is the Chimú culture?

The Chimú culture is a pre-Inca population that was born after the decline of the Huari empire in the 900s and 1200s. They were located on the north coast of Peru and expanded from Tumbes to the Huarmey valley. Its main city was Chan Chan in the Moche river valley north of Lima, Peru. This culture was noted for its advances in the urban plan , as well as the development of various techniques for working with metals, agriculture, livestock and textiles. The Chimúes were considered the best architects of ancient Peru.


Characteristics of the Chimú culture

  • It is a pre-Inca culture .
  • They built palaces such as the Paramonga fortress , Huaca Esmeralda and Huaca Dragon .
  • They believed in the Moon as the supreme god .
  • Its social organization was class-based.
  • They had advanced knowledge in construction .
  • They worked with precious metals and mastered welding, decorating, casting and hammering techniques.
  • They developed agriculture , livestock and textiles.
  • They worked the artisan ceramics for purposes of daily and religious use.
  • They had advanced knowledge of hydraulic engineering that allowed them to build irrigation canals.

Who discovered the Chimú culture?

The Chimú culture was discovered by the German archaeologist Federico Max Uhle in 1902 when he was working on an archaeological project in Peru that began in 1899.


History of the Chimú culture

The Chimú culture has its origin in the year 900 . Its founder was a character named Tacaynamo , who arrived with his entourage in large wooden boats. This character adopted the name of Gran Chimú .

According to various archaeologists, the Chimú culture arises from the remains of the Mochica and Lambayeque cultures , located in the Valley Moche in the current city of Trujillo.

This kingdom was ruled by ten rulers who were treated as gods and lived in a palace in Chan Chan with the tribute paid by the people to their rulers.

It is believed that the Chimú people had ten rulers, but only four of them are known by name. Tacaynamo, Guacricur, Naucempinco and Minchancaman. The last of its rulers when trying to expand their kingdom faced wars with the Inca empire , whose king was Túpac Inca Yupanqui and lost his kingdom and submitted to Inca vassalage in the year 1470.


The Chimú culture was located on the north coast of Peru , specifically in the city of Chan Chan in the valley of the Moche River.

The Chimú population extended to the north with Olmos (current Pirua) and Tumbes, to the south with Pativilca or Carabaillo (Lima) and to the east with Huarmey until it reached Trujillo (in the department of La Libertad ).

In its development, the Chimú culture expanded 1,000 kilometers along the coast of Peru until it almost reached its northern border.

Social organization

The Chimúes were a people whose social organization was class and aristocratic . It had a complex bourgeoisie that had under its control the productive system of the peasants and artisans.

Its structure, from higher to lower hierarchy, was given as follows. At the head was the great lord named Cie Quich . He lived in the palaces of the capital Chan Chan surrounded by a large court. Then follow the Alaec or caciques who were members of the nobility who acted as feudal lords. In third position, there were those who represented the economic power called Fixlla . And at the base of this pyramid were the yanos who were the vassals, who served as slaves and engaged in fishing, agriculture, crafts and commerce.

Chimú culture agriculture

Despite the fact that the capital of the Chimú culture was located in one of the driest deserts on the coast, its inhabitants knew how to develop a complex irrigation system that allowed the creation of crop fields throughout the year .

They built stone channels, one of them 84 kilometers long that ran from the Chicama river to the north in order to bring water to their fields in the Moche Valley.

The Chimú culture cultivated corn, beans, squash, squash, peanuts, soursop, cotton, among others.

Pottery of the Chimú culture

The Chimúes were very skilled with ceramics since it fulfilled two main functions; the one for daily use and the religious or funeral home.

The Chimú vessels contained small sculptures on their arches, their coloration was generally black and in some cases they were given a polish that made them look brilliant. In these you can see the representations of animals, characters, fruits, mystical and even erotic scenes.


Metalworking in the Chimú culture derives from its contact with the Lambayeque culture.

Its raw material was copper, arsenic bronze , silver and gold. They were experts in metal casting, welding, and decorating techniques.

The jewels and metallic ornaments produced by the Chimú artisans were made with precious metals and belonged to the upper class.

The purposes of metal objects in the Chimú culture were for daily use, ceremonies and luxury. Among the metallic objects, the most prominent were necklaces, glasses, masks, pectorals and some miniature objects.

One of the best-known metal objects of the Chimú culture is the tumi , a golden knife decorated with designs and reliefs that was one meter long and one foot wide that was used in sacrificial rituals for the gods.

Chimú culture religion

The Chimú population worshiped the Moon for the influence it had on their plantations, the tides, and they used it as a time reference. The Chimúes believed that the Moon was more powerful than the Sun because it could shine in the dark.

The Moon was the punisher of thieves and the visitor from the other world. It had a temple called Si-An (House of the Moon) where rites were practiced on the first night of the new moon. The Chimúes had other deities such as the Sea, the Earth and the Sun, but the Moon was the main one.

The Chimúes believed that they came from four stars, the nobles descended from two larger ones and the common people descended from the two smaller ones.

Among their rites, was the funeral. The Chimúes believed that the soul of their deceased took to the sea to be transported to their last resting place.

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