Archaeologists investigate the legend of Naymlap

Archaeologists investigate the legend of Naymlap

A lot before the Spanish came to Peru in 1530 and brought with them a written language with which to remember history, the legends about ancient Peru had passed down through generations orally to 'historians', Who were able to calmly tell those stories about mythical heroes and villains.

The most colorful of those stories was the legend of Naymlap, the feared founder of a dynasty that would last for centuries and supposedly ruled the Lambayeque Valley in northern Peru.

As legend has it, Naymlap came up with a large fleet of rafts in which his entourage went, including his main wife and numerous concubines. He also brought with him a idol made of greenstone and built a palace where he settled. In his court there was a trumpeter who played through shells, which was highly appreciated by the Indians, a servant who dispersed powdered shell powderthere where Naymlap walked and servants who attended to all his needs, from the official bathroom to storing his down shirts.

During his long reign, the tale continues, the people he lived happily in peace until his death, maintained in secret by his servants, who out of fear that their followers would learn that their revered leader had succumbed to this human fate, buried him In the same room where he had lived. Due to his mysterious disappearance, many of his followers they left their houses to find him.

Naymlap's ancient search was relaunched in modern times by an international archaeologist at UCLA, who in 1980, to determine where the story might actually have taken place, excavated at two sites adjacent to the Lambayeque Valley: Chotuna and Chornancap.

Christopher Donna's revelations about the legend and his searches in the two places are detailed in a book of 268 pages published by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeological Press of UCLA: ‘Chotuna and Chornancap: Excavating an ancient Peruvian legend’.

We try to prove the validity of the legend through archaeological excavations”Explains Donnan, an emeritus archeology professor who has done the biggest discoveries tombs and other important sites of the ancient civilization in Peru, the Moche, throughout his 40-year career as an archaeologist. "My hope was that it could be suggested that Naymlap was Moche, my main field of interest”.

But after three seasons in the fields, no fragment Moche pottery has been unearthed. Even so, Donnan and his team of UCLA students and archaeologists found a group of ceramics, tombs, colorful murals and other materials in an area that was once the location of houses, pyramids, palaces, walled enclosures and a crowded site that they called ‘Quadrangle of Craftsmen', A place where the metallurgy.

In other words, the archaeologist states, “what we've found fits the legend perfectly”.

Donnan says the legend has fascinated him for years it was first written by Miguel Cabello de Balboa in 1586, just over 50 years after the Spanish conquered the Inca empireand colonial Peru took place.

It's a wonderful story”Says Donnan about the legend that ends nine generations later with the fall of Fempellec, the last in the line of succession of Naymlap. Fempellec apparently tried to move the green idol out of the palace but was intercepted by the demon who appeared to him in the form of a beautiful seductress. Having consummated their union, a terrible rain began to fall, flooding the valley for 30 days, which followed with a year of hunger and sterility. The vassals of Irate captured Fempellec, bound his hands and feet, and they threw him into the Pacific Ocean, closing the dynasty that Naymlap had founded.

Captivated by the legend and probing the possibility that oral traditions had some historical validity, Donnan shared his thoughts in a conversation over dinner in 1979 with Bill Lucas, the director of Fowler Museum of Cultural History and an amateur archaeologist.

He questioned me at length about the possibility of testing the validity of the legend through archaeological excavations”Donnan emphasizes. "The more we talked, the more intrigued the idea got. By the end of the night, we had drawn up a plan for three seasons of fieldwork”Over three years. Funds from National Geographic they made it happen.

The idea was not to prove or disprove that Naymlap existedDonnan explains. This would not have been possible. "If you think about where Camelot was, and organize a three-year excavation at a place, how would you know that King Arthur was real or that he lived there? Even if you find a large round table, you might be able to say 'This is Camelot?'". Not certainly, says the archaeologist.

But in the end, Donnan's excavations show evidence that the legend could have been real and that the places could be where Naymlap and his successors are said to have ruled.

Carbon testing dates the earliest constructions to 650-700 BC. Digging down to the lowest layer that showed human life, the researchers discovered structures made of adobe blocks. Because the builders used blocks in three different ways at the same time, the blocks give archaeologists an idea about construction dates. Blocks from previous periods show signs of erosion caused by floods.

All this corresponds to the periods during which the successors of Naymlap. “It's a strange correlation, ”says Donnan. “Nothing has been found to indicate that the legend does not apply to Chotuna and Chornancap. But of course this does not prove that the legend is real.”.

Field archaeologists cannot confirm or disprove the validity of oral legends, myths and traditions, says Donnan, who has urged fellow archaeologists to oral tradition is not ruled out and he encouraged them to use them in the elaboration of their theories. "They can offer important insights that can aid analysis”.

Today, the excavation at Chotuna and Chornancap is being led by Peruvian archaeologists, who have been digging continuously since 2006. When Donnan visits, they treat him like a folk hero to the area's first explorer and fight to take pictures with him. "Some of the young students don't think he's still alive”He said with a smile.

While no one has made any progress to validate the legend of Naymlap, a place has been erected like museum in Chotuna where visitors can see what has been found and learn more about the legend of Naymlap. “It is wonderfulDonnan says. "I always hoped that one day other archaeologists would continue the work I started”.

With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.