Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Imposing Fortress of Paramonga

Along the north central coast of Peru, in the northern lands settled by the Wari, is the impressive fortress of Paramonga, built southwest of Pativilca city and north of a river by the same name.
Imposing fortress of Paramonga

This area was an important city constructed at the border of the former Kingdom of Chimú, during the early years of Peru, whose capital was the metropolis of Chan Chan. It is located south of the Fortaleza River, close to the town of Pativilca 125-miles north of Lima. It is said that it was an important religious settlement, similar to Pachacamac, and today named after a nearby town of the same name since its original name is unknown.
    The large, four-layered, staggered pyramid was built behind seven enormous stone walls with a view overlooking the entire area, and resembling a European medieval castle, which is why it is sometimes called the Castillo Paramonga (the Paramonga Castle). The fortress/castle was likely built by the pre-Chimú for a defensive purpose on a strategic location, on a summit of a hill providing a sweeping panorama of the valley all around.
    The entrance into the upper fortress of Paramonga is through a narrow, uphill switchback, where the doorways are double reinforced for barricading against attack. The seven defensive walls surrounding the city were, which in turn was guarded by a large, impressive and probably impenetrable gatehouse. Small storehouses and residential buildings top the hills surrounding Paramonga's center, but modern agricultural sugarcane fields bury any other remains of what was once an important city.
    The Chimú, also known as the kingdom of Chimor—the second largest empire in ancient Andean history—with its capital at Chan Chan three miles west of Trujillo, which was a place of vast trade and master craftsmanship, with over 26,000 artisans living in the city. It was located along the border of the former Kingdom of the Moche, or the Mochica, which was the oldest civilization on the north coast of Peru.
Chimú feathered tunic, part of their colorful and exquisite textile artistry (Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art-New York)

Chan Chan was composed of royal ­­compounds, referred to as ciudadelas or citadels, which were elaborate, labyrinthine compounds surrounded by high walls made of adobe bricks covered in mud plaster and reliefs. These Ciudadelas were composed of long, narrow corridors leading to spaces with different uses, such as large, open plazas with central platforms for ceremonies, storage facilities, and even large wells. It would be difficult for someone unfamiliar with the citadel to navigate their way through, and so the architectural design provided a f security in addition to the presence of guards and court officials within the completely walled city.
    The massive structure rises from the river flood plain in 5 to 7 tiers (depends on how and where you count them). The outer facing of the vertical walls of each tier are made entirely of uniformly sized adobe bricks.  The ones on the top that are most exposed to the elements tend to crumble to dust when you rub them.  If you brush away the finely pulverized sand, which must be from the crumbling bricks, there is evidence in many places that the walls were at one time coated with a smooth plaster and painted in bright colors.
Architecture of Chan Chan and its outside walls that surround the city

The start of the Moche is not known, but its realm was in the Chicama, Moche, and Viru valleys where many large pyramids are attributed to their early period, and where they created extensive hydraulic systems using canals which flowed to large valleys forming complex irrigation systems. In addition, they formed huachaques, or sunken farms that removed the dry top layer of soil, to work with the rich moist soil beneath, as well as walk-in wells, and large reservoirs to retain the water they gained form their hydraulic systems, all of which drastically increased productivity of the lands that increased chui wealth. They were also involved in metallurgy, creating jewelry of copper, gold, silver, bronze and tumbaga. Their civilization lasted a millennium, ending before 700 AD (Otto Holstein, Otto. 1927. "Chan-chan: Capital of the great Chimu", Geographical Review, vol.17, no.1, January 1927, pp36-61).
One of th3 long entrances to the building area that would take an approaching or attacking army having to negotiated  the narrow confines with attack from either side on the top of the walls

The citadel was a royal household, audience chamber, and storage facility during the life of the king, and his tomb upon his death. Each new king would build a new citadel, as the old king was buried in his. A new king would begin from square one, needing to build his wealth and his citadel, along with his reputation. This may have been one reason for the steady expansion of the kingdom of Chimor: the need for new sources of wealth for new kings.
    As is the case of studying almost any early cultural people or period in Peru, most of the information we have comes from the Spanish colonial period by chroniclers, Spanish soldiers, priests, and other literate men who accompanied Hernando Pizarro on the conquest of the Tawantinsuya. Important among them was Miguel de Estete, who was called the "chronicler soldier." Accompanying Pizarro in 1532, he traveled by the Able Ñan (dirt road) along the coast to Cajamarca to receive the gold for the rescue of the Atahualpa Inca.
    Estete wrote in his account, "... and another day we went to sleep in a great town that is called Parmunga, which is next to the sea, has a Strong House, with five blind fences, painted elaborately on the inside and outside with its walls carved, the way it is done in Spain, with two tigers (pumas?) at the main entrance.”
    Another chronicler, Pedro de Cieza de León, passed Paramonga during his trip from the City of the Kings (Lima) to Trujillo in 1541 also described the citadel:
The many outside walls of Paramonga, all serving as deterrents to attack

"There is one thing worth seeing in this valley, which is a fine well-built fortress, and it is certainly very curious to see how they raised water in channels to irrigate higher levels. The buildings were very handsome, and many wild beasts and birds were painted on the walls, which are now all in ruins and undermined in many places by those who have searched for buried gold and silver. In these days the fortress only serves as a witness to that which has been” (Pedro de Cieza de León, “The travels of Pedro de Cieza de Léon,” 1532-1550 AD, translated by Clements R. Markham, from the first part of his Chronical of Peru, Hakluyt Society, London, 1864 [original 1555])
    The stonework at Paramonga, like that of Chan Chan, was brick plastered with mud, with the fine details the exquisite details of the massive temple have long been eroded, but the multitiered construction is nonetheless impressive and affords fantastic panoramas of the lush valley. However there can be no question that this fortress was exactly that—a fortress to defend its occupants from attacks by an overwhelming foe based on the number of outer walls, their height and strength and extensive gates that allowed access to the complex. 

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