Featured UNESCO World Heritage Site of April: Chan Chan Archaeological Zone

Before the arrival of Europeans, South America was home to many great civilizations, with the most well-known being the Inca, Maya and Aztecs. However, nestled between the Pacific Ocean the foothills of the Andes was the Chimu Kingdom, which reached its height during the 1400s, just before it was conquered by the Incas. One of the few remaining traces of this pre-Columbian society is found in modern-day Peru: the magnificent Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, once a large and bustling city.

Chan Chan Wall

These ancient ruins are found on the outskirts of the city of Trujillo, about 300 miles north of Lima, Peru’s capital city. The historic city of Chan Chan is considered to be the largest Pre-Columbian city in South America. The remains encompass approximately 3½ square miles, segmented into industrial, agricultural and residential zones. The city ruins are encircled by high walls, with temples, homes, storehouses, gathering spaces, ceremonial sites, irrigation canals, and artisan workshops spread throughout the ruins. In fact, the Chimu were known to be extraordinary metal workers.

Chan Grounds

A visit to Chan Chan requires at least a half-day visit to explore the site and its museum. While in the area, make sure to also visit the nearby “Huaca del Sol” and the “Huaca de Luna,” two adobe brick temples built by the Moche civilization, and “El Brujo,” a Moche complex noted for its polychrome reliefs and mural paintings.

Chan Museum

It is important to know that the Chan Chan site is specifically recognized as an “in danger” UNESCO site. Due to erosion and climatic threats (such as this year’s El Niño), along with plundering and proposed construction in the area, Chan Chan is a destination at risk of vanishing. However, by recognizing the site’s importance and communication with the local community the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization hopes to prevent its disappearance.

Chan Chan was chosen to be a UNESCO site because it links the cultural heritage of Peru to the present, and represents the history of human development in the region, including political, economic, and social history.

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