The Moche-Chimú Transition (ca 750-AD 1000)




In the immediate aftermath of the end of Moche culture (as marked by the integrated set of Moche stylistic canons on the north coast of Peru) a period of transition occurred before the consolidation of two new major socio-political complexes - Sicán in the northern valleys and Chimú in the south.  Ultimately the Chimú created an “empire” that encompassed the entire region and beyond in the period AD 000/1100-1380.  The transitional period developed differently according to the location and local history of the different areas of the North Coast.



                                                     Southern Area (Moche Valley)


1.  In the south where collapse had been most extreme, Moche valley society reverted from a large-site dominated urban pattern to a rural pattern of small settlements scattered around the valley.  While offerings at the Huaca de Sol suggest that this site with its historical associations with religious prominence may have provided some form of central ideological focus, there is no indication of centralized political control.


2.  The archaeological, picture is very hazy during this period in the south.  The so-called “Early Chimú” period ceramics show some continuity of features with the innovative Galindo forms but differ greatly as a style from the characteristic Moche pattern.  There is some intrusion of Wari-influenced style in the offerings at the Huaca del Sol indicating the influence of a transcendent religious complex that superseded the more locally oriented Moche. Settlement architecture shows modest villages without central corporate features.


3.  It appears that around AD 1000 a new political and social system began to consolidate around the settlement of Chanchan near the shore of the Moche Valley.  However, little remains have been recovered archaeologically from the site dating to this period so information remains scant.


4.  The later Taycanamo Legend, passed on to the Spanish by Chimú people, describes the origin of the Chimú polity.  It tells of a powerful dynasty whose founder arrived by sea by balsa raft with his retainers and built his palace there.  His heirs reigned in the valley until the Inca conquered Manchancaman around AD 1480.  There appear to have been three phases of expansion of this empire, the first around AD1050-1100, which spread as far as the Santa valley in the south, the second that extended north to Lambayeque around AD 1300, and the third by the last king Manchancaman in the generation before the Inca conquest.



                                            Central Area (Jequetepeque Valley)


1.  In the Jequetepeque Valley there was more continuity between Moche and succeeding culture.  Here disruption had not been as severe as in the far south and the transitional period shows greater influence of Moche.  In fact the pottery of Jequetepeque during the period immediately following the end of the period is a blend of Moche and foreign influences showing the continuing effects of the Later Moche ideological shift ion the valley.


2.  Areas of foreign influence include the Wari-influenced central coast and the Cajamarca area of the nearby highlands.  The Cajamarca influence reflects long-lasting contact between the two areas because of their locations at either end of the major communication between coast and highlands.


3.  By AD 1000 the Jequetepeque valley had come under the influence of the northern Sicán polity (see next section) and entered the wider history of the Late Intermediate Period.



                                           Northern Area  (Lambayeque Drainage)


1.  In the north, although the urban center of Pampa Grande was abandoned at the end of the Moche phase, there was considerable continuity with earlier history, reflecting the major persistence of the central features of Moche political strategy in the Late period.


2.  The so-called Sicán Culture of the Lambayeque region represented a mixture of Moche and Wari traits.  The Lambayeque pottery style shows this confluence of traits in an inventory dominated by the black ware that was already increasing in use in the Late Moche Period.  Likewise, the earlier Sicán period reverted to earlier Moche settlement pattern with large ceremonial centers like Batan Grande and Tucumé dominated by huge platform mounds.  Late Moche urban settlement was abandoned.


3.  It is probable that there were several Sicán polities, at least one of which expanded south to encompass the valleys south as far as Chicama.  These polities persisted from their founding ca AD 800 to their conquest by the Chimú around AD 1300.


4.  Sicán polities also developed widespread commercial networks.  Thus the center of Batan Grande produced large quantities of copper blanks and ingots and salt, probably exporting these in return for copper ores from Cajamarca and shell, emeralds, textiles and coral from Ecuador.  The commodity of transaction was the copper money axe, many of which have been found in the Sicán centers and up the coast of Ecuador into lower Central America.  These were made in the centers where smelting furnaces and slag have been found in great quantities.


5.  The second major pre-Inca legend passed on orally to early European arrivals probably refers to the foundation of the Sicán dynasties.  The Naymlap Legend tells of a ruler and his courtiers with elaborate positions arriving by raft from the north (Ecuador) and building his capital at the site of Chot (possibly the archaeological Chotuna).   The legend also relates that the founder left his kingdom to many sons, each of whom ruled a city.  This probably reflects the multi-polity situation of the Sicán area.


6.  Around AD 1300 the Chimú, advancing from the south, conquered the entire region and incorporated it into their “empire.”