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A group of 20 wooden sculptures believed to date back at least 800 years was found in a passageway of the walled ensemble of Utzh An, in the archaeological complex of the walled city of Chan Chan.
It is believed that the wooden sculptures served as guardians.
Twenty wooden carved idols – one of them in very poor condition – and five murals with the same iconographic discourse were found in the walled complex Utzh An.
The sculptures, each 70 centimeters tall and around 800 years old, would have fulfilled the function of guardians and were found in 20 elongated niches located in the entrance of the aforementioned walled group, north of Chan Chan.
“We assume they are guardians,” Henry Gayoso Rullier, who is responsible for the project “Restoration of the perimeter walls of the walled complex Utzh An“, told El Comercio.
Gayoso said that each sculpture presents a mask possibly made of clay and bones or crushed beige shells, they stand and carry a scepter in one hand and a circular object that could be a shield in the other hand.
“They could belong to the middle stage of Chan Chan, between 1100 and 1300 AD, making them the oldest sculptures known on this archaeological site,” he added.
On the other hand, archaeologist Alejandra Rengifo Chunga also maintained that “they are anthropomorphic figures”.
“The scepter, which they carry in one hand, gives them rank, status; while the shield they carry in the other hand would mean defense, protection,” she said.
Regarding the murals, the director of the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of La Libertad (DDC-LL) and the Chan Chan Archaeological Complex Special Project, María Elena CórdovaBurga, stressed that “it is the first time that Chan Chan has revealed an entrance corridor to a ceremonial courtyard completely decorated with reliefs in mud.”
Experts say it this is an exceptional discovery.
Both the statuettes and the murals were found in July of 2018 and were covered with earth and pieces of adobe, but they were only presented by the Ministry of Culture on Monday.
The minister of the sector, Patricia Balbuena, said that it is an exceptional find “that allows showing how magnificent the work of the Chimú was.”
In fact, experts say that the “decorated area has 33.13 meters and it is an extraordinary find, both for its age and for the aesthetic quality of the mural decoration.”
Gayoso added that the murals present scapes [fishing nets], volutes [waves], and representations of a lunar animal.
“Findings like these expand our knowledge of Chimú architecture and in particular its monumental architecture,” he told El Comercio in a recent interview.