Friday, June 14, 2019

The Remarkable Moche City at Chan Chan

The mysterious pre-Inca Moche Empire, which is believed to have emerged around 200 BC, about the time that Mosiah I left the city of Nephi and sought a land northward, ending up discovering Zarahemla and the people of Mulek.
    Moche society was agriculturally based, with a significant level of investment in the construction of a network of irrigation canals for the diversion of river water to supply their crops. Their culture was sophisticated; and their artifacts express their lives, with detailed scenes of hunting, fishing, fighting, sacrifice, periodic encounters and elaborate ceremonies. The Moche are particularly noted for their elaborately and sophisticated painted ceramics, gold and silver work, and their monumental constructions.
The city of Chan Chan, the Capital of the Moche Empire, covered 13-square miles with an urban center of 4 square miles, which contained extravagant ciudadelas, which were large architectural masterpieces housing plazas, storerooms, and rural platforms for burial

During the ensuing years, including the 200 year period of Nephite peace and tranquility following the Savior’s appearance, two large temples, called much later by the Inca as the Sun and Moon (Huacas del Sol and de la Luna), were built and are among the biggest monuments ever built in the New World; its adobe built city is the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas and the largest mud city in the world; filled with incredible golden treasures of the Lords of Sipán,  unearthed with the discovery of the Royal Tomb of  Sipán in 1987, the richest unlooted tomb ever found in the Americas.
    The Moche were contemporary with the Nazca, the latter living further south along the coast, the former a wealthy and powerful farming-based people, who built many kinds of sophisticated structures, including irrigation systems and elaborate religious complexes known as huacas (wak’a), or ceremonial centers.
    The Moche were a stratified society with a powerful elite and an elaborate, well-codified ritual process. The political economy was based on the presence of large civic-ceremonial centers that produced a wide range of goods which were marketed to rural agrarian villages and settlements. They were located in a large area of the La Libertad Region in northern Peru, surrounding the Moche River. This area has been farmed since the pre-Columbian era and currently contains rural and urban settlements.
The ancient city of Chan Chan, once the capitol city of the region with several temples or main ceremonial centers outlined

Trujillo, at the mouth of the Moche River, is the most important city of the valley, and the location of several towns and agricultural areas where products such as sugar cane and asparagus are cultivated, being fed by irrigation canals and systems.
    This area was first settled by the Cupisinque, as early as 500 BC, followed by the Moche, and then the Chimu, with numerous archaeological sites monumental remains attesting to the high degree of complexity of these civilizations. Of course, we do not know for certain that these were three different cultures or peoples, though archaeologists and anthropologist list them as such based upon the style of ceramics found there. However, it could just as well be one civilization that improved in their ceramics over time.
    At the height of Chan Chan, it was home to an estimated 60,000 people and contained a vast wealth of gold, silver and ceramics. The complex consisted of 10 walled citadels, also called royal compounds. Each contained a royal burial chamber within a pyramid, filled with vast quantities of funerary offerings, including dozens of sacrificed young women and chambers full of ceramics, weavings and jewelry. Today, only one of these has been restored, an area called the Palacio Nik An, containing a massive ceremonial courtyard, where the 33-foot high, 13-foot thick barrier walls were generally decorated with friezes representing abstract motifs, and anthropomorphical and zoomorphical subjects.
    In addition, around these complexes were thirty two semi monumental compounds and four production sectors for activities such as weaving wood and metal working, with extensive agricultural areas and remnant irrigation systems  found further to the north, east and west of the city.
The outer walls are all carved with great detail, with such murals also found inside the numerous chambers

Carvings of fish, waves, seabirds and sea mammals are represented throughout the city on its outer walls and interior rooms. Beyond the benign areas of decoration and large pools surrounded by reeds, numerous small rooms are located where soldiers were once housed. A special large rectangle assembly room with 24 seats set into niches in the walls, with its amazing acoustic properties being such that speakers sitting in any one of the niches can be clearly heard all over the room.
    Here, it is believed, the ancients of Chan Chan planned, organized, and decided upon the serious matters of the city and religious ceremonies. In fact, the planning of the largest earthen city of pre-Columbian America is an absolute masterpiece of town planning. Rigorous zoning, differentiated use of inhabited space, and hierarchical construction illustrate a political and social ideal which has rarely been expressed with such clarity. Such high-level development in an ancient people is unique in world developments where their growth in the region did not include low-level and beginning stages.
    Next to being the residence of the king, queens and priests, Chan Chan served as the commercial, political and administrative center of the Chimu Kingdom. At the center of the city, which spans over 4 square miles, lie extravagant “ciudadelas” or palaces. These large architectural masterpieces functioned as storage, residence, mausoleum, temple and administrative centers. Outside of these areas lie the compounds and centers for textile weaving, metalworking, woodworking, and other skilled areas. At the outskirts of these compounds there were the houses of the farmers. Only the palaces and the compounds have been preserved and partially restored at Chan Chan.
    The city is characterized by ingenious structural knowledge. Both the thickness of the walls and the supporting structures around it are specially devised to protect it from earthquakes as well as enemies, while certain rooms or storage units only have holes in certain walls to let in the fresh wind only or to protect from the strong sea winds. In its day, Chan Chan was magnificently decorated, the gates were in metal, the walls covered in variations of red, white and black and the walls had both painted and structural designs that were meant to give information about each individual place. Although the colors have faded and some of the walls seem to have melted, some parts still show the exquisite drawings and designs.
    In fact, all over ancient Andean Peru we find building abilities in the Ancients not found elsewhere in history, where a civilization shows up without prior development stages and constructs remarkable buildings, vast cities, extensive and very effective irrigation and water management systems. In almost all cases, these innovation techniques, from accurately carved and dressed stone to thick walls many feet thick, that weathered extremely well against earthquakes.
    The Moche and Chicama rivers once supplied an intricate irrigation system via an approximately 50-mile long canal, sustaining the region around Chan Chan during the height of their civilization.
Chan Chan on a rise overlooking the surrounding region

How this area fits into the Book of Mormon geography is unknown, however, one location along the north west seashore where a major battle was found around 329-330 AD, suggests such an area as Chan Chan. Mormon describes it as “in the three hundred and twenty and seventh year the Lamanites did come upon us with exceedingly great power, insomuch that they did frighten my armies; therefore they would not fight, and they began to retreat towards the north countries. and we did take possession of the city of Angola, and make preparations to defend ourselves against the Lamanites…we did fortify the city with our might; but notwithstanding all our fortifications the Lamanites did come upon us and did drive us out of the land of David. And we marched forth and came to the land of Joshua, which was in the borders west by the seashore…we did gather in our people as fast as it were possible, that we might get them together in one body” (Mormon 2:3-7, emphasis added).
    Several years later in 345 AD, the Nephites were driven out of the land of Joshua all the way to the land of Jashon (Mormon 2:16).p
    Again, while we know very little about the land of Joshua, it was located in the general area of Chan Chan, which had very high walls and vast in size, and could have held what was left of the Nephite people from the Land Southward as they assembled in the “north countries” but not in the Land Northward.

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