National Geographic : 1973 Mar
Chan Chan, Peu's Ancient IVING OR DEAD, every city has a unique character, I believe-an essence distinct ly its own. But when I first saw the capi tal of ancient Chimor in 1967, I felt pangs of doubt. Here, on the coastal desert of northern Peru, stood the fabulously wealthy center of a kingdom that had vied with the mighty Inca empire. But how could one hope to recapture, in this dun-colored sprawl of mud-brick ruins, the urban personality of Chan Chan? It was simply too big. Covering roughly nine square miles, it was the largest pre Columbian city in South America. I wan dered past great desiccated earthen walls, some 25 feet high and nearly 2,000 feet long. They surrounded baffling mazes of corridors, courts, and rooms, shrouded for five centuries in sand and dust. If there was an order, a plan, to Chan Chan, from my lizard's-eye vantage point I certainly could not see it.