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The Chimu Kingdom, with Chan Chan as its capital, reached its apogee in the 15th century, not long before falling to the Incas. The planning of this huge city, the largest in pre-Columbian America, reflects a strict political and social strategy, marked by the city's division into nine 'citadels' or 'palaces' forming autonomous units.
Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai
Ancient palace guards ‘preserved’ in termite poop
Peruvian archaeologists working in a 750-year-old city recently discovered something uniquely surprising about an already stunning find.
When archaeologists recently excavated the ceremonial entranceway to an ancient palace in Peru, they were excited to discover a series of 750-year-old wooden “guardians” flanking the passage. But there was an even bigger surprise in store as the statues emerged from the dirt: termites had chewed through the 19 wooden bodies over the centuries, leaving in their place two-foot-high human figures fashioned at least partially—and in some cases perhaps almost completely—from centuries-old insect excrement.
Not all the statues received the same termite “treatment,” says archaeological director Henry Gayoso. Upon initial inspection, some of the statues appeared to consist almost completely of termite excrement (formally known as frass), Gayoso told National Geographic in an email. Others seemed to have the wooden structure preserved under a layer of frass. (Discover why termites are rather fascinating creatures.)
Each ancient wooden statue features a face fashioned from a clay mask, a wooden scepter in one hand, and the representation of a decapitated human head in the other hand. But how could the termites have chewed through the wooden statues, only to keep them more or less in their original form?
The key is that termites are photophobic, and when chewing through wooden objects they tend to leave a thin wooden “skin” intact to protect their tunnels from light, explains Lynn Grant, head conservator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
“The frass does not usually fill the whole tunnel, so unless one is extremely careful, it is all too easy to have the whole preserved facade collapse if the pieces are not handled with extreme caution,” Grant adds in an email. “The archaeologist is to be congratulated.”
“I’m sort of surprised they didn’t eat the whole thing up,” says Robert Koestler, Director of the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute. “After 700 years, it’s surprising that they’re in the shape they’re in.”
The discovery came as archaeologists recently excavated a passageway in Utz An palace (formerly the Grand Chimú palace), the largest of 10 enormous adobe complexes that make up the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chan Chan in northern Peru. Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimú people between the 10 th and 15 th centuries A.D., and at its height was one of the largest cities in the Americas.
The statues are set into niches—ten on each side—that flank the roughly 100-foot-long passageway that leads into a ceremonial courtyard larger than an acre. (Of the 20 original statues, one apparently succumbed completely to the termite onslaught.) Patricia Balbuena, Peru’s minister of culture, calls the statue find an “extraordinary archaeological discovery.”
A person passing through the entrance to Utz An and into the enormous courtyard, under the gaze of the wooden statues holding scepters and decapitated heads, would be overwhelmed with awe, says archaeologist Gayoso.
“When you came to see him, there was no doubt that the character that governed Utz An was the most powerful [person] you would ever meet in your life.”
10. Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves
The Atlantic Forest is truly breathtaking. Image credit: wikimedia.org
This site was chosen based on its natural criteria and is located in São Paulo and Paraná, Brazil. This location is home to achingly gorgeous vistas and mountain ranges that span across a 932-mile system of peaks and escarpments in Southeastern Brazil. Also known as the Serra do Mar, it runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coast through several states. The various mountain ranges are broken up in several places and as a result, can be given individual names like the Serra de Bocaina and the Serra Negra. The beauty and diverse ecosystem make this a definite stop for nature lovers.
Caral was inhabited between approximately 26th century BC and 20th century BC,  and the site includes an area of more than 60 hectares (150 acres).  Caral has been described by its excavators as the oldest urban centre in the Americas, a claim that was later challenged as other ancient sites were found nearby, such as Bandurria, Peru. Accommodating more than 3,000 inhabitants, it is the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.
The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.  In early 2021, tensions arose between squatters claiming land rights and archaeologists researching the site as housing construction encroached on the site.  
The Caral temples in the arid Supe Valley, some 20 km from the Pacific coast.
Paul Kosok discovered Caral in 1948. The site received little attention at the time because it appeared to lack many of the typical artifacts that were sought at archaeological sites throughout the Andes.
In 1975, the Peruvian architect Carlos Williams made a detailed record of most of the archaeological sites of the valley of Supe, among which he recorded Caral. Based on what he observed in the region, he made some observations about the development of architecture in the Andes.
Ruth Shady further explored this 4,000- to 4,600-year-old city in the Peruvian desert, with its elaborate complex of temples, an amphitheatre, and ordinary houses.  The urban complex is spread out over 150 hectares (370 acres) and contains plazas and residential buildings. Caral was a thriving metropolis at roughly the same time as the great pyramids were being built in Egypt.
Caral is the largest recorded site in the Andean region with dates older than 2000 BC and it appears to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilisations that rose and fell over the span of four millennia. It is believed that research conducted in Caral may answer questions about the origins of the Andean civilisations and the development of its first cities.
Among the artifacts found at Caral is a knotted textile piece that the excavators have labelled a quipu. They write that the artifact is evidence that the quipu record keeping system, a method involving knots tied in textiles that was brought to its highest development by the Inca Empire, was older than any archaeologist previously had determined. Evidence has emerged that the quipu also may have recorded logographic information in the same way writing does. Gary Urton has suggested that the quipus used a binary system that could record phonological or logographic data.
Main temple Edit
The main temple complex (Spanish: Templo Mayor) is 150 meters (490 ft) long, 110 meters (360 ft) wide and 28 meters (92 ft) high. The date of its construction is unknown.
Peaceful society Edit
Shady's findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on commerce and pleasure. No indications of warfare have been found at Caral: no battlements, no weapons, no mutilated bodies. This contrasts with the older civilisation of Sechin Bajo where depictions of weapons are found. In one of the temples, they uncovered 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones and 37 cornetts of deer and llama bones. One find revealed the remains of a baby, wrapped and buried with a necklace made of stone beads. 
Scope of site Edit
Caral spawned 19 other temple complexes scattered across the 90 square kilometres (35 sq mi) area of the Supe Valley.
The date of 2627 BC for Caral is based on the carbon dating of reed and woven carrying bags that were found in situ. These bags were used to carry the stones that were used for the construction of the temples. The material is an excellent candidate for high precision dating. The site may date even earlier, however, as samples from the oldest parts of the excavation have yet to be dated. 
Caral had a population of approximately 3,000 people. However, 19 other sites in the area (posted at Caral), allow for a possible total population of 20,000 people sharing the same culture in the Supe Valley. All of these sites share similarities with Caral, including small platforms or stone circles. Shady believes that Caral was the focus of this civilisation, which was part of an even vaster cultural complex, trading with the coastal communities and the regions farther inland – perhaps, if the depiction of monkeys is an indication, as far as the Amazon. 
An Unprecedented Event?
If the archaeologists' conclusion is correct, Huanchaquito-Las Llamas may be compelling scientific evidence for the largest single mass child sacrifice event known in world history.
Until now, the largest mass child sacrifice event for which we have physical evidence is the ritual murder and interment of 42 children at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán (modern-day Mexico City).
The discovery of individual child sacrifice victims recovered from Inca mountaintop rituals has also captured the world's attention.
Outside of the Americas, archaeologists at sites such as the ancient Phoenician city of Carthage debate whether child remains found there constitute ritual sacrifice and, if so, if such ritual events took place over the course of decades or even centuries.
Verano emphasizes that such clear-cut evidence for deliberate, singular mass sacrificial events such as those evidenced at Las Llamas, however, is extremely rare to find in archaeological contexts.
Analysis of the remains from Las Llamas shows that both children and llamas were killed with consistent, efficient, transverse cuts across the sternum. A lack of hesitant ("false start") cuts indicates that they were made by one or more trained hands.
"It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic," Verano says.
Human sacrifice has been practiced in nearly all corners of the globe at various times, and scientists believe that the ritual may have played an important role in the development of complex societies through social stratification and control of populations by elite social classes.
Most societal models that look at human sacrifice, however, are based on the ritual killing of adults, says Joseph Watts, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
"I think it's definitely harder to explain child sacrifice," he says, then pauses.
Чан-Чан (кечуа, ісп. Can Chan) — найбільше доколумбове місто Південної Америки, колишній центр культури чиму та столиця держави Чимор, а зараз — археологічна ділянка на його місці, розташована на тихокеанському узбережжі Перу за 5 км на схід від міста Трухільйо.
Місто виникло близько 1300 року і зараз займає площу близько 28 км². Ймовірно, воно було найкрупнішим містом свого часу у Південній Америці, в період найбільшого розквіту в ньому жило близько 60 тисяч чоловік. Будівлі міста збудовані з саману, в місті у великій кількості збереглися золото, срібло і керамічні вироби.
Столиця чиму складалася спочатку з дев'яти округів, кожний з яких управлявся окремим правителем, зазвичай військовиком, який проявив доблесть в бою. Ці правителі шанувалися як королі. Кожен округ мав власні місця поховань з багатими вкладеннями в них дорогоцінного каміння, керамічних виробів і з десятками скелетів молодих жінок.
Коли в кінці 15 століття прийшли завойовники-інки, їм не вдалося захопити Чан-Чан військовим шляхом. Тому нападаючі спорудили дамбу для того, щоб повернути річку, на якій стояв Чан-Чан, в іншому напрямі. Лише брак води примусив обложених здатися інкам. Після завоювання інками, місто стало втрачати своє значення. Проте зруйнували і розграбували його не інки, які більше прагнули до розширення своєї імперії, ніж до багатства. Руйнування прийшло, коли Імперією Інків оволоділи іспанці. Від всієї культури чиму після цього мало що залишилося. Сьогодні збереглися лише райони міст із старими будинками з саману і руїни культових споруд.
Останніми роками до посиленої ерозії стародавнього міста приводить феномен Ель-Ніньйо. Десятиліттями в цій місцевості ледве бували опади, проте разом із зміною клімату щорічні бурі стають все сильнішими і видозмінюють пустельні прибережні території.
Найкраще зберігся район Хімеруй, названий на честь швейцарського дослідника Іоганна Якоба фон Хімеруя. Цей район поступово відновлюється і відкритий для відвідування туристами. Тут можна побачити деякі святкові зали з розкішними орнаментами. До 1998 року саманові споруди покривали спеціальною глазур'ю, що захищала їх від опадів. Проте з тих пір ерозія стала настільки сильною, що необхідно було побудувати сталеві риштування, щоб стародавні споруди не розмило.
У 1986 році Чан-Чан отримав статус Світової спадщини ЮНЕСКО. Одночасно через зміни клімату і руйнування міста, що посилилося, руїни міста були внесені до списку Світової спадщини, що знаходиться під загрозою. У наш час комплексу загрожує крім цього підвищення рівня ґрунтових вод, а також нелегальні поселення на його території.
Endangered Site: Chan Chan, Peru
During its heyday, about 600 years ago, Chan Chan, in northern Peru, was the largest city in the Americas and the largest adobe city on earth. Ten thousand structures, some with walls 30 feet high, were woven amid a maze of passageways and streets. Palaces and temples were decorated with elaborate friezes, some of which were hundreds of feet long. Chan Chan was fabulously wealthy, although it perennially lacked one precious resource: water. Today, however, Chan Chan is threatened by too much water, as torrential rains gradually wash away the nine-square-mile ancient city.
Located near the Pacific coast city of Trujillo, Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimú civilization, which lasted from A.D. 850 to around 1470. The adobe metropolis was the seat of power for an empire that stretched 600 miles from just south of Ecuador down to central Peru. By the 15th century, as many as 60,000 people lived in Chan Chan—mostly workers who served an all-powerful monarch, and privileged classes of highly skilled craftsmen and priests. The Chimú followed a strict hierarchy based on a belief that all men were not created equal. According to Chimú myth, the sun populated the world by creating three eggs: gold for the ruling elite, silver for their wives and copper for everybody else.
The city was established in one of the world's bleakest coastal deserts, where the average annual rainfall was less than a tenth of an inch. Still, Chan Chan's fields and gardens flourished, thanks to a sophisticated network of irrigation canals and wells. When a drought, coupled with movements in the earth's crust, apparently caused the underground water table to drop sometime around the year 1000, Chimú rulers devised a bold plan to divert water through a canal from the Chicama River 50 miles to the north.
The Chimú civilization was the "first true engineering society in the New World," says hydraulic engineer Charles Ortloff, who is based in the anthropology department of the University of Chicago. He points out that Chimú engineering methods were unknown in Europe and North America until the late 19th century. Although the Chimú had no written language for recording measurements or drafting detailed blueprints, they were somehow able to carefully survey and build their massive canal through difficult foothill terrain between two valleys. Ortloff believes the canal builders must have been thwarted by the shifting earth. Around 1300, they apparently gave up on the project altogether.
While erratic water supplies created myriad challenges for agriculture, the Chimú could always count on the bounty of the sea. The Humboldt Current off Peru pushes nutrient-rich water up to the ocean's surface and gives rise to one of the world's richest marine biomasses, says Joanne Pillsbury, director of pre-Columbian studies at Washington, D.C.'s Dumbarton Oaks, a research institute of Harvard University. "The Chimú saw food as the tangible love their gods gave them," Ortloff says. Indeed, the most common images on Chan Chan's friezes are a cornucopia of fish, crustaceans and mollusks, with flocks of seabirds soaring overhead.
Chan Chan's days of glory came to an end around 1470, when the Inca conquered the city, broke up the Chimú Empire and brought many of Chan Chan's craftsmen to their own capital, Cuzco, 600 miles to the southeast. By the time Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived around 1532, the city had been largely abandoned, though reports from the expedition described walls and other architectural features adorned with precious metals. (One of the conqueror's kinsmen, Pedro Pizarro, found a doorway covered in silver that might well have been worth more than $2 million today.) Chan Chan was pillaged as the Spaniards formed mining companies to extract every trace of gold and silver from the city.
Chan Chan was left to the mercy of the weather. "The Chimú were a highly organized civilization" and any water damage to the adobe-brick structures of Chan Chan "could be repaired immediately," says Claudia Riess, a German native who now works as a guide to archaeological sites in northern Peru. Most of the damage to Chan Chan during the Chimú reign was caused by El Niño storms, which occurred every 25 to 50 years.
Now they occur more frequently. Riess believes that climate change is a primary cause of the increasing rainfall—and she's not alone. A 2007 report published by Unesco describes the erosion of Chan Chan as "rapid and seemingly unstoppable" and concludes "global warming is likely to lead to greater extremes of drying and heavy rainfall." Peru's National Institute of Culture is supporting efforts to preserve the site. Tentlike protective structures are being erected in various parts of the city. Some friezes are being hardened with a solution of distilled water and cactus juice, while others have been photographed, then covered to protect them. Panels with pictures of the friezes allow visitors to see what the covered artwork looks like.
Riess believes the best solution for Chan Chan would be a roof that stretches over the entire area and a fence to surround the city. But she acknowledges that both are impractical, given the ancient capital's sheer size. Meanwhile, the rains continue, and Chan Chan slowly dissolves from brick into mud.
Sports and recreation
The most popular spectator sports, as in most other Latin American countries, are football (soccer) and bullfighting, the latter at the renowned Plaza de Acho bullring in Lima. Football is played in the National Stadium near downtown Lima, and there are a number of professional teams in Lima and the other major cities. Football games are also played throughout the country—any flat space large enough to accommodate two goals will be used by both children and adults. On a recreational level, a scaled-down version of football is regularly played on basketball courts, often by organized leagues of adults. Volleyball has become a popular sport, particularly for women the Peruvian national team has had great success in international competition. Basketball, horse racing, and cockfighting are among other well-attended events.
Swimming and surfing are popular activities along the Pacific coast, especially during the summer months (December–February), when thousands of residents of Lima, Trujillo, and Chiclayo flock to the beaches during the midday siesta period. Other sports, such as golf, tennis, and yachting, are almost exclusively the provenience of the affluent, with private clubs offering the only facilities in most large cities.
Modern equipment and technological tools facilitate underwater archaeology, but allow also for treasure hunting. Extensive pillage is now also taking place under water. Even sites located deep in the ocean have already been subject to unethical artefact recovery .
Pillage is the theft of historical artefacts from a heritage site in violation of the law and without authorization. It is unfortunately a common phenomenon when it comes to ancient shipwrecks or underwater artefact deposits.
Diverse communities can be involved, ranging from occasional and opportunistic souvenir hunting by sport divers to specialized treasure-hunt enterprises. Pillage also often desecrates the grave sites common to ship wrecks.
The 2001 Convention provides for strong measures, preventing the pillaging of underwater cultural heritage. They range from direct site protection measures to the interdiction of trafficking pillaged artefacts, port closure, seizure, sanctioning and international cooperation in the investigation and pursuit.
Every State, seeking to protect its underwater heritage from pillage has an interest to ratify the Convention.
Some recent pillage cases:
The Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes Wreck , Spain: The Mercedes had more than 200 people aboard when it sank in 1804 in a naval battle, triggering war for Spain. A Florida-based treasure-hunt firm found the shipwreck off the Strait of Gibraltar in 2007 and pillaged it. A court battle ensued before the US courts ruled in 2012 that the firm had no claim to the artifacts and had to return the almost 600,000 gold and silver (17 tons) coins to Spain.
Mir Zakah Coin Find , Afghanistan: Between 1992 and 1995 one of the largest deposits of coins known in the history of currencies was discovered at the bottom of a well in Mir Zakah, located in Pakhtia province of Afghanistan. Torrential rains had caused the well to overflow. The coin deposit seems to have contained more than four tons of minted metal, near 550,000 coins of mostly silver and bronze and 350 kilograms of gold. It was pillaged and exported. The find’s special importance lies in the information it gives on Bactrian kings and in a depiction of Alexandre the Great on a medal.
Jutland Battle Wrecks (WWI), International Waters: The World War I Jutland wreck sites have been commercially exploited by pillagers, who recovered metal and artefacts, despite disturbing war graves. Recent archaeological research of 22 Jutland battle wrecks of World War I has shown that there is evidence of pillage on at least 60% of the sites, some of it historic, but some recent, as on the HMS Queen Mary. The Jutland wrecks, British and German, are a significant reminder of the importance of peace.
Corsica Hoard/Lava Treasure, France: In October 2010 France seized third century A.D. Roman gold coins as well as an ancient gold plate with a pedigree linking the material to the Lava Treasure. The Lava Treasure, consisting primarily of ancient Roman gold materials, received its name because the find was discovered accidentally by locals diving in the Gulf of Lava Corsica about 25 years ago. It was soon pillaged. A close monitoring of the numismatic and art market finally allowed to discover the trace of the stolen treasure and to seize it even while such a long time after the pillage had gone by.
Sao Idefonso Wreck , Madagascar: Sailing under Portuguese flag, the Sao Idefonso sank in 1527 south of the island of Madagascar on the Etoile reef. A research mission attested to the presence of the wreck on the site, and observed many artefacts, copper ingots and guns. Privileged witnesses of the first Portuguese explorations to the Indian Ocean, the Sao Idefonso and its submerged cargo were however soon looted by locals. Nothing remains of the wreck in situ.
Yucatan Skeleton , Mexico: A particularly important ancient skeleton disappeared in 2012 from a cenote (a flooded carst cave) in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Dubbed Young Hol Chan II, the 10,000-year-old skeleton was discovered in 2010 at the same site that in 2006 had previously yielded another 10,000-year-old skeleton, the Young Man of Chan Hol. The skeleton is important because investigations into the 2006 find, the Young Man of Chan Hol, suggested a shared lineage with Indonesians and south Asians. This is a contrast from the common hypothesis that the earliest people to colonize the North and South America migrated from Asia to North America across a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska.
UNESCO and Google Demonstrate How Climate Change Threatens Five Heritage Sites
We tend to think of cultural heritage sites as needing preservation against the threat of direct human over-development, but a new online initiative, Heritage on the Edge, hosted by Google Arts & Culture, serves to highlight the ways in which climate change poses a visceral threat to five existing UNESCO heritage sites. These sites represent a mere cross-section of places of great cultural importance being affected by climate change (for example, new predictions on when Venice will become Atlantis).
Maoi statues in Rapa Nui National Park, 2011. (Photograph by Ko Hon Chiu Vincent)
Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island) is home to a set of astonishing stone Moai statues, which have captured the global imagination for centuries, in spite of the island’s remote location. While the provenance of some of these statues remains a battleground for bitter debates on historic colonial practices, those that remain sited on Rapa Nui now face another kind of threat: that of rising sea levels. The page focused on this site presents stunning footage of the statues and landscape, detailed information about Rapa Nui indigenous culture and history, 3D recreations of the statues, and an overview of current efforts to stabilize the climate threat to the island and its living and statuary occupants.
Old and New Towns of Edinburgh in 2015. (Photograph by Ko Hon Chiu Vincent)
In Edinburgh, Scotland, the capital’s Castle Rock has hosted a structure built for royalty since at least the 12th Century. Edinburgh Castle has undergone shifts in architecture and political importance over the centuries, but it remains a historic landmark of great significance, host to the Scottish regalia, the Scottish National War Memorial and Museum, and is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction. Now, erosion accelerated by frequent rains threatens not only the castle on the rock above the city but many of the historical buildings in operation in the oldest parts of the city. According to statistics cited by Google Arts and Culture from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), Scotland’s annual rainfall has increased by 13% since 1970. Edinburgh can expect increasing issues with its outdated stormwater management systems, and increased rates of decay as the rainwater and shifts in temperature mobilizes once-static elements of the ancient sandstone composition of its structures.
Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat in 2010. (Photograph by Amos Chapple)
Water, water, everywhere. Ancient mosques in the river delta city of Bagerhat, Bangladesh are scrambling to deal with rising flood plains that create salinity issues and water damage, beginning to encroach on medieval structures of Khalifatabad, the Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat, that have stood for 600 years. Unchecked, there is debate over whether this city, home to 360 structures (and the surrounding Bagerhat district, home to some 1.5 million), will survive another 600 years.
Ruins at Kilwa Kisiwani in 2009. (Photograph by Ron Van Oers)
Meanwhile, in Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania, ruins are threatened with ruin. The Swahili coastal city was a major trade center and sultans amassed great riches through trade on the Eastern coast of Africa. Like many ocean-facing cities, Kilwa Kisiwani now lives under the constant challenges posed by erosion and rising sea levels to historic structures like Gereza Fort and the Great Mosque — the oldest standing mosque on the East African coast.
Chan Chan Archaeological Zone (Peru) in 2007. (Photograph by Jim Williams)
Holding on in the face of washout, protectors of the mudbrick metropolis of Chan Chan, Peru are in a scramble against erosion. Once the capital of the Chimú Empire and home to 40,000 citizens, the sprawling earthen architecture anchored an ancient empire that stretched from southern Peru to Ecuador. Increased precipitation driven by El Niño weather trends in the Pacific Ocean is causing wear on the city’s adobe architecture and raising the water table at the site, even as less coastal parts of Peru face drought conditions and look to their ancient cities for survival tactics.
Venice and its lagoon. Enjoy it while you can. (Photograph by Vincent Angillis)
In all cases, Heritage on the Edge highlights the efforts being made to preserve aspects of cultural importance to underscore the wider problems posed by climate change to contemporary structures and populations. Those who live in conditions relatively sheltered from the current threats cropping up along coastlines worldwide — and lack the basic empathy to understand climate change as an issue affecting everyone, even when it’s not flooding our personal doorstep — can perhaps be motivated by an understanding that the rising tide is not just washing away marginalized and distant populations it threatens the entire global history of human civilization, as well as our future.