Archaeologists exploring the pre-Columbian city of Chan Chan have been discovering wooden sculptures for decades. They have found dozens of wooden masks, statues, sculptures, and other artifacts.
Chan Chan (which means “Sun Sun”) is an ancient city located north of today’s city of Trujillo. It was the capital of the Kingdom of the Chimor and the largest pre-Columbian city before the Inca conquest (1470 AD). People built the city with sun-dried mud, but due to massive floods and rains, the city is in danger.
From around 850 A.D. until the Inca conquest, the Chimu ruled the northern coastal area of Peru, with Chan Chan as the capital of Chimor (their empire). The estimate is that Chan Chan had a population of about 40,000-60,000. No city in the Americas that has more adobe buildings than Chan Chan.
The Wooden Sculptures
Unlike the statues discovered in 1970 and 2006 (in Rivero and Valverde), the 17 wooden figures found in 2009 were perhaps the most important discovery made in Chan Chan The sculptures embedded in the walls of the Ñain An complex believed to represent a farewell to the deceased leaders of Chimu. The figures were there to lead the journey from worldly to divine. The statues don’t symbolize religious idols nor warriors, but only well-wishers – both men and women. What was typical of the icons found in the past is that they were males carrying spears, like warriors guarding an entrance.
In 2017, archaeologists have discovered four wooden sculptures at what used to be a funerary platform at Chayhuac An. These sculptures are one female and three male figures that were with other artifacts that comprise metal vessels, a wand, remains of winkle shells, and textiles. It is believed that the sculptures were used to mark the graves of important social individuals at the time. What is most unusual here is the finding of the female statue, which may redefine our understanding of the role of women in ancient Peru.
The most recent discovery happened this October, when archaeologists unearthed 20 wooden sculptures, claiming that they’re the oldest ones found so far. They consist of black wood with a beige clay face mask that contrasts the dark wood. Each one of them has a kind of a circular object on the back that seems like a shield. One sculpture was damaged by termites, while the other 19 remain intact. They are placed at the ceremonial corridor of the Great Chimu palace, Utzh An, in two rows of opposing riches. The walls of the passage are decorated with reliefs (lines of squares), wave patterns, and images of lunar symbols - the sculptures embedded in the walls of the Ñain An complex believed to represent a farewell to the deceased leaders of Chimu .
Chan Chan holds countless mysteries and secrets that are hidden by the veil of past. These wooden sculptures are like pieces of a puzzle that uncovers more about the people who lived here with each new piece. If you want to find out more about this ancient Chimu culture site and our Chan Chan programs, please feel free to