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Lost Kingdoms Of South America -

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(generated from captions) NARRATOR:
On the north coast of Peru,

between the Pacific Ocean
and the Andes,

is a vast desert.

For over 450 years,

this was home to a kingdom

whose rise and fall

is one of the greatest
untold stories of the Americas.

At its heart was a city.

Chan Chan is that rare
and precious thing -

a pre-industrial city,

a lost city of types,

because it was built and functioned

in a completely different way
to the cities that we know today.

I'm Jago Cooper

and as an archaeologist
who specialises in South America,

I've always been fascinated
by the secrets and mysteries

buried deep in these awe-inspiring
and forbidding landscapes.

The history of this continent
has been dominated

by the stories of the Inca
and the Spanish conquistadors.

But in this series, I'll be
exploring an older, forgotten past,

travelling
from the coast to the clouds

in search of ancient civilisations

as significant and impressive
as anywhere else on earth.

The Kingdom of Chimor
dominated the northern coast of Peru

for five centuries.

In the face

of some of the most extreme
climate conditions in the world,

its people transformed the desert...

..built an oasis in the sand...

..and created
gold and silver treasures.

And they believed so strongly

in the power
of their monarchs and their gods

that they were prepared
to sacrifice their own children.

Wow.

From 900 AD to 1400 AD,

these loyal subjects
built an empire -

an empire that raises
so many interesting questions.

What motivated them
to invade their neighbours?

How did they build

one of the largest pre-Columbian
cities in South America?

And why did this -
the first empire of South America -

disappear back into the desert
that it conquered?

I love coming to South America.

There is so much
rich, unstudied archaeology here.

Everybody's heard of the Inca,

but they are just a few hundred
years of 12,000 years of history

of this great continent.

There's so much more to study,

and by looking
at these lost cultures,

we can help them
take their rightful place

in the history of South America.

Long before the Inca

were the Chimu

and the Chimu once were kings.

And with their loyal subjects
they built the Kingdom of Chimor.

By its height in the 15th century,

their kingdom
had become an empire -

the first in South America.

Stretching along 600 miles of
coastal desert in what is now Peru,

it was lapped
by the Pacific on the west

and frowned upon
by the Andes in the east.

In this unforgiving terrain,

the Chimu left us

one of South America's
greatest archaeological stories.

Neglected for centuries
and exposed to harsh desert storms

stand the remains
of a true lost city.

One can only imagine what the first
Europeans must have thought,

when parched
and dazzled by the desert,

they came over the hill
and saw this.

This is Chan Chan,

one of the largest adobe settlements
in the world,

a monument to the 35,000 people
who once lived here.

They began building the city
in the 10th century

and continued to expand it
for over 500 years.

Chan Chan is as intriguing
as the people who built it.

In eight dusty square miles, there's
no single centre or any roads.

Walls, some as high as 10 metres,
tower over you.

Inside them are the remains
of 10 sumptuous royal palaces.

Outside,
hundreds of smaller dwellings

are marked now
by the alignments of stone.

Chan Chan
is a puzzling architectural jigsaw

that reflects Chimu society.

But when the Spanish
arrived at Chan Chan in the 1530s,

they were only interested
in taking Chimu gold

and imposing their Christian God.

People here
were sceptical about Adam and Eve

because they had
their own origin myth

that the common people of the Chimu
came from a copper egg

and the royal family of women
from a silver egg

and men from a golden egg.

For the Chimu,
hierarchy was seen as preordained.

Everyone accepted
their place in it...

..and at the top
was an all-powerful monarch.

Chan Chan was the seat of power
for the Chimu royal family,

and, thus,
the very heart of the empire.

This city in the desert

is where all of
the important decisions were made.

In their palaces,
surrounded by riches,

the Chimu royal family

hosted feasts and sacrifices
and worshipped powerful gods.

But how did such
a vast, complex and wealthy city

come to be built in a desert?

People have been drawn
to this coast for thousands of years

but the exact origin of
these coastal peoples isn't known.

The Chimu had their own explanation
of how they came to be here,

and it began at sea.

Lying alongside the city of Chan
Chan is the mighty Pacific Ocean.

The Spanish recorded a Chimu story

about how their ancestors
sailed down the coast

from lands further north.

Whatever the truth of that legend,

the Pacific Ocean offered sustenance
to the early cultures of the coast.

So just going out to do some fishing
with Juan and Luis.

Past the surf, I'm really struck
by the vastness out here.

So just heading out
into the Pacific Ocean.

Right down the coast you go down
past Chile down to the Antarctic.

Out here you have the expanse
of the Pacific,

going right across
towards Australia.

But as the Chimu
and their ancestors discovered,

you don't have to go far
to find the sea's bounty.

Here off the coast of Peru,

you find one of the richest
marine environments in the world.

It's home to the Humboldt Current

that pulls up cold water
right from the Antarctic

that's full of plankton and fish
and marine life,

and this stretch of ocean

has been feeding the coastal
populations of Peru for millennia.

I can really understand

why these coastal peoples
were in awe of the sea.

Many believed
that deities controlled it,

determining the weather
and the day's catch.

The Chimu used fish nets
made of cotton

and archaeologists
have found hundreds of fish weights

at archaeological sites
all along the coast.

The Chimu believed that their gods
could whip up the ocean into storms

and endow its creatures
with unearthly powers.

You see the pelican a lot

in many of the friezes in Chan Chan
and in Chimu sites.

and they were used in the fishing

'cause it helped the Chimu identify
where the shoals of fish would be

when they were out to sea.

And when you get
to the other end of the net,

there's the last float
on the other side.

I'm hoping a heavy net
means a lot of fish.

I'm glad
I've got this big guy behind me,

'cause it takes a bit of strength
to haul this in.

But this part of the ocean
can be deceptive.

Periodically, atmospheric conditions
warm the water,

killing off its nutrients

and forcing the fish
to look elsewhere for food.

That's not happening today,

but I'm not sure
the gods are with us.

(MEN CHATTER IN LOCAL LANGUAGE)

It's not the biggest catch
in the world.

Our meagre catch

reminds me that fishermen around
here can't always rely on the sea

to feed their families.

Coastal peoples,
including the Chimu,

knew that the gods could send them
back to shore empty-handed.

They had to look to the land as well
if they were going to survive.

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The coastal desert of Peru

might seem like a harsh
and inhospitable environment,

but it's home
to a vital life-saving resource.

Winding through the desert sands
are a series of rivers

which bring precious meltwater
down from the high Andean peaks.

Understanding the environment
of the river valleys

is the key to understanding
the rise of the Chimu Empire.

(BOTH CHATTER INDISTINCTLY)

I met up
with archaeologist Dr Jeff Quilter

to ask him how these river valleys

sustained early settlements
on the coast.

Well, the environment plays a role
in every culture's development.

The fact that we have
these river valleys

that were abundant with life
surrounded by desert

clearly had an effect
on how cultures developed,

they developed in the river valleys.

As a matter of fact,

Peru's coastal valleys
were seen as one example

of this great phenomenon
that seemed to happen worldwide

of the origins of civilisations
in river valleys.

Before the Chimu

were the Moche,

one of the most violent
and sophisticated cultures
of the Americas.

For over 600 years,
they ruled the Moche River Valley.

It's thought that their demise
around 750 AD

followed an extreme weather event
so catastrophic

that it was almost two centuries

before the Chimu
rose in the same valley.

And do you think that the Chimu
could have risen up

if it hadn't been
for the Moche before them?

Well, we all build upon the past.

Even though
Moche collapsed in some ways,

a lot of what they did continued.

We see lots of continuities -

they're sometimes subtle, but
they're in some of the ceramics.

The irrigation systems

that were developed
thousands of years before the Moche

continued,
were expanded by the Chimu.

So we stand
on the shoulders of giants.

(LIVELY CHATTER)

Over 200 years passed

between the end of the Moche and
the emergence of the Chimu Empire,

but many of the challenges
remain the same.

One priceless gift

that the Chimu inherited from their
Moche great-great-great-grandparents

was that engineering alchemy that
transformed the desert - canals.

The Moche and their ancestors

had been building canals
for hundreds of years,

but the scale and ambition
of Chimu engineering

surpassed
anything that had come before.

I've come to the Jequetepeque Valley
just 74 miles from Chan Chan

to see how the Chimu
engineered their environment.

It's hard to believe,

but the land around here
was once an infertile desert.

(SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY)

Archaeologist Dr Luis Jaime Castillo

has been investigating
how the land was reclaimed.

What I find incredible

is how irrigation
can transform a desert landscape

into this verdant, green,
agricultural soil.

Well, you have to be aware
of one thing, no?

You've seen the deserts here -

I mean, deserts here
are REAL deserts,

they look like the Sahara.

There's no...no... I mean, no
plants, no animals, no nothing.

So if you put water there,

I mean, you're going to have
a wet desert, but nothing more.

So the point there

is that one of the mysteries
that we have

is that the Moche and the Chimu were
forced to constantly re-create soil.

By sheer human effort, irrigation
canals were carved into the earth.

It appears that thousands of tonnes
of nutrient-rich soil

was transported here from
the forested edges of the valleys.

Without machinery or the wheel,

countless armies of men and women
over many centuries

transformed desert sands
into fertile fields.

But importing the soil was only
the start of the people's ingenuity.

One thing that is surprising
about the ancient canals

is that they wind a lot.

They are not straight like ours -
they wind.

And probably
the reason why they wind

they want to stop the water.

They want to make
the water flow slowly, nicely,

because the worst enemy of the canal
is the water itself.

If it flows too fast,
it's going to cut the canal,

so you want
that water flowing nicely.

The engineering involved
sometimes defies belief.

Some canals have
an almost imperceptible gradient

of 1 in 10,000.

During the early days
of the kingdom,

the Chimu people rebuilt and
expanded the ancient canal network.

But as the population grew,

their canal-building
became more strategic.

I guess that the Chimu
probably changed the rules

by creating a larger canal
that serves everyone

and that was clearly controlled
by them, and that's this one -

the highest one,
the longest one, the widest one.

You can imagine this full of water,
running down.

I mean, it's a river, it's
collecting lots and lots of water

and it's pouring it into the desert.

And as the deserts were irrigated,

so the Chimu people
showed their gratitude

by offering the fruits of their
labour to the elite at Chan Chan

by way of tribute.

The surplus
fuelled population growth

and increased
the power of the state.

For the kings and queens
of Chan Chan,

canals and irrigation channels
like these

played a crucial role

in the expansion and consolidation
of their empire.

It was their ability
to mobilise and control

the skilled workforce
necessary to construct them

that transformed the amount
of agricultural land available.

By 1300 AD,
arable land under Chimu control

had expanded from 4 square miles

to a staggering 340 square miles.

But the land, as well as the sea,

was subject
to extreme weather events.

And as the population increased,

so too did the risk
posed by catastrophic conditions

to the food supply.

In the face of danger, it seems
the Chimu appealed to their gods.

In August 2011, an excavation
at a village near Chan Chan

shed some light on the relationship

between the Chimu,
their gods and their children.

I went to the museum at Chan Chan to
meet archaeologist Gabriel Prieto.

What he had found
amazed and horrified him.

So these are some
of your excavated materials.

Yep, this is it.

I'd like to have a closer look.
Can we take a few and have a look?

Sure. OK. Let me get them.

Sure. OK.

I'll handle it with care.

So it's quite a lot
of responsibility

to find a site like this
and start excavating it.

Yeah, keep it safe from looters.
Yeah.

When Gabriel began his excavation,

he never anticipated
what he was about to find.

I was called by one of the
neighbours who lived around there

and he told me that his kids
were playing with human skulls.

(LAUGHS)

And he said,
"You should come and see it.

"You're an archaeologist,
you should come."

So I went there with my team

and we ended up
digging these amazing contents.

Gabriel had stumbled upon
the remains of 43 individuals.

Dental evidence suggests that they
were between 10 and 14 years old -

boys and girls
on the cusp of puberty.

The first signs
indicated a mass ritual killing.

God.

Wow.

Yeah.

This is literally... (CHUCKLES)

And so this is, like, red ochre?
Which is like a paint?

Yeah, it's red paint

that it was applied, as you can see,

on the upper part of the face

and on the sides.

So, basically, 50% of
the human skulls that we have found

have this pattern.

Do you think it had something to do
with the ritual?

It was intentionally made

to show
that these were special kids,

that these were offered
for some special reason.

But as an archaeologist, I know that
mass burials can mean many things.

And what makes you think
that they were sacrificed?

That these aren't
the victims of war,

that it has this ritual context?

Well, we have very strong evidence

that they were actually
cutting through the sternum

and then
they were opening the ribcage

and possibly - it's possible,
you know - to extract the heart.

Right, so you have, like, trauma
wounds in each of the ribcages?

We have trauma
from each of the ribcages

and especially on the sternum.

Basically what they did
is to cut through the sternum,

you know, that's why you can see
actually a very clean cut over here.

And this is located here.

They cut it this way

and then they opened the ribcage

in order
to extract or remove the heart.

Working with all the evidence,

Gabriel is assembling
a complete picture

of how these children died

and why.

Having worked at the site,

what do you think
is the sequence of events

that really led
to these kids' death?

Well, it is very possible
that, at some point,

they put all these children together
somewhere here in Chan Chan,

you know, they were at a warehouse
or a big plaza.

Probably they were feeding them,
you know, with special foods.

And, then at some point,
they are prepared for weeks,

'cause it's very important

that the moon has to be in the
correct position and so forth.

So they took these kids

and they walked
through all the outside of Chan Chan

and they went straight to this spot.

Gabriel is awaiting more tests

to determine whether any of the
children were related to each other.

But he can see from examination
that they were all fit and healthy.

It's impossible not to think
about the adults

who prepared these children
for their terrible fate.

These children -
they must have had parents.

I mean, do you think

that they were separated in some way
from society at an early age

to break that relationship
between children and adults?

I mean, it's, like...
It's a brutal thing to do.

From an anthropological
point of view,

it is very possible
that giving the best that you have -

your children, your siblings -

for a supreme purpose

probably was something

that was accomplished
by their relatives

as something very important,

and probably provided them

with a special status
within the Chimu society.

It would seem that this slaughter of
innocents was demanded by the state.

But what could be so important

that any state would sacrifice
fit and healthy children?

I think that this context

is a clear evidence

of the Chimu estate as trying to
control a very difficult situation,

because we have found
a very thick layer of clay

that is on top of sand.

So it's clear

that there was a very strong rain

right before this ritual
and afterwards.

Which actually makes us think
about the gods

and the importance
of the Chimu pantheon on this.

It's very clear that this sacrifice
was made not only to stop the rains,

these very dangerous
and damaging rains,

but at the same time

to what I consider
is the most important Chimu god,

and it's actually a goddess -
the sea goddess.

The sea goddess, the most
important of all the Chimu deities,

governed the sea and the moon...

..the two indomitable forces
of the coastal environment.

Were these children
killed to appease her wrath?

Human sacrifice
is an incredibly emotive thing.

There's no getting away
from the fact

that brutally murdering
43 children -

ripping out their hearts,
opening up their chests -

is a hard thing
for us to understand.

But as an archaeologist,

we have to try and empathise

with how this can be
culturally acceptable at the time,

perhaps even expected
of the elites who ruled Chan Chan.

Gabriel paints a picture
of a powerful people

desperately battling with their
environment around the mid-1300s...

..the same period
that a catastrophic weather event

struck the Peruvian coast.

Recurring periodically
but never predictably,

these events
are a blight on Peru's history.

Meteorologists attribute them

to a puzzling phenomenon
they call the southern oscillation -

known more commonly around the world
as El Nino.

El Ninos are a climatic anomaly

that can periodically
transform local weather patterns.

The consequences
here in coastal Peru

can be torrential downpours

that transform this barren landscape

into a raging torrent of water.

At their worst, El Ninos can bring
floods, drought, plagues of insects,

and even waves of disease.

So when the Chimu survived
the El Nino of the mid-1300s,

perhaps they believed

their sacrifices
had appeased the sea goddess.

But the damage
to their irrigation canals

seems to have encouraged
a new policy,

one less dependent on the elements.

They abandoned canal building

and seemed to lose interest in the
time-consuming irrigation business,

instead opting for a new strategy,

a strategy
that brought more wealth and power

to the kings and queens of Chimor -

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Along the west coast
of South America,

other cultures -
some much older than Chimor -

cultivated the land

and traded with inland peoples
as far away as present-day Bolivia.

None was as powerful
as the masters of the coast.

And it took the Chimu just 100 years

to quadruple
the size of their territory.

The La Leche River Valley
near the border with Ecuador

was once home
to the Lambayeque culture

that had dominated the area

since the fall of the Moche
in 750 AD.

These eroded structures
were once towering pyramids.

From here, the Lambayeque elite

controlled a valuable trade
in precious metals and shells,

making this place a strategic target
for the Chimu.

This is Tucume -

for centuries
home to the Lambayeque lords

who built
the 26 monumental pyramids here.

In fact,
this whole landscape is manmade.

But during the 14th century,

the Chimu conquered Tucume and built
their own elite residences here,

on top of the sacred pyramids.

You can hardly get a clearer
demonstration of domination.

Yet, after the initial invasion,

there's no evidence
of violent suppression here -

so how did the Chimu
hold on to their power?

I've come to another excavation
13.5 miles north of Tucume

where more information
about the Chimu strategy

is slowly coming to light.

Here at the recently excavated site
of Cerro Xetolo

we get a completely
different perspective

on life within the Chimu Empire.

250km away from Chan Chan,

this was home to a Chimu elite

sent here to administer the
northern frontiers of the empire.

Dominating the site today
are stone walls

forming a series of
concentric circles up the hillside.

The Chimu elite were segregating
and protecting themselves,

but, as at Tucume,

evidence indicates that the
occupation of the site was peaceful.

This explains why the Chimu didn't
need force to maintain control.

In fact, some archaeologists
think that the Chimu shared power

with the conquered elite.

The defensive walls were for them
as well as their new masters,

and in return for this protection,

and a new framework for society,

precious metals
and other valuable resources

flowed back to Chan Chan.

Over the course of around 100 years,

Chimor's expansion
transformed the kingdom.

Where the Chimu had once controlled

only the Moche Valley
around Chan Chan,

by 1400, they ruled a whole series
of key river valleys

to the north and south.

And as Chimu power grew,
so did their wealth.

It was a clever strategy.

It brought lucrative trade routes
under Chimu control

and diversified the kingdom's
resources and food supplies -

a critical insurance policy
in such a harsh environment.

And all the wealth,
all the abundance,

was channelled back to Chan Chan.

By the early 15th century,

Chan Chan was the centre
of the royal family...

..a pantheon of powerful gods,

and the most powerful empire
in Peru.

(ADULTS SPEAK IN LOCAL LANGUAGE)

Today,
it's a popular tourist destination.

Centuries of desert storms

have swept away
much of the fine decorative detail

of the adobe architecture,

but you can still see glimpses
of how it must have looked.

All of these little designs
and reliefs you see

in all of this part of Chan Chan,

they look really nice,
but they're all...

..they're all made of fibreglass

and they're just reconstructions
of the originals

using photographs
from the original excavation.

When you approach the city
from the ground,

you can't see the palaces

because they're enclosed
behind towering walls...

..that evoke a sense of power
and segregation.

Archaeologist Guillermo Gonzalez

explained their part
in the Chimu hierarchy.

The elite and lower orders
may have been separated by walls,

but theirs was a relationship
of reciprocal need and reward.

It's difficult to get away
from the idea of class structure

when discussing the hierarchies
of Chan Chan,

but it's such
a Western industrial-era term

that really doesn't fit
with ancient societies.

Chimu hierarchy
was born out of a shared worldview.

Everything from their origin myths
to the geography of their empire

reinforced their hierarchy.

The lowest tier -
the fishermen and farmers -

lived beyond the city boundaries.

The next tier up - the artisans -
lived closer to the centre of power

crammed into the spaces
between the palace compounds.

Outside the walls
of this royal compound

you can see a whole series
of small single-roomed structures.

Because the elite
of this ancient city

controlled all of the wealth
in the region,

it drew in artisans and craftspeople
to come and live here

and gain access to the raw materials
they needed within the city.

These small spaces, clustered
together between the 10 palaces,

were once home
to up 90% of the city's population.

Conditions here
must have been cramped,

but it certainly wasn't a ghetto
for a slave class.

Far from it.

Archaeologists have unearthed tools

which suggest that the residents
of those small dwellings

were highly skilled artisans.

Peru's museums house thousands
of Chimu artefacts made by them.

Portrait vases, said to be modelled
on elite individuals,

hint at the integral relationship
between power and art in Chan Chan.

These ceramics
are monochrome and highly polished

and you can see the faces staring
back at us from over 500 years ago.

But whilst the ceramics
are impressive and unique,

it's, in fact, the metals
from Chan Chan

that the Chimu are most famous for.

These exquisite body ornaments

were more than status symbols
for the kings and queens of Chimor.

They were a precious homage

to the forces
that they worshipped and feared.

To them, gold represented the sun

and silver
represented the moon and sea.

The Chimu were masters of both.

You can see images of monarchs
worked into the metal

alongside sacred feline figures,
birds and sea creatures.

It's not surprising

that the artisans who created
these wonderful treasures

were rewarded for their skills.

The artisan class of Chan Chan
were afforded special privileges -

they could wear ear spools,
marry among themselves

and be buried
in their own cemeteries.

But this wasn't a meritocracy -

the Chimu never expected
to become social climbers.

The artisans who lived between the
palace walls were allowed inside,

but probably not for long.

In Chan Chan,
archaeologists have found

a whole series of storage rooms

where the spoils of the kingdom
were kept.

But if residents wanted to gain
access to these storage rooms,

they had to walk down
these long corridors

filled with U-shaped rooms
like these.

These rooms are called 'audiencias'

and they hold the key

to understanding
how the kingdom functioned.

The lower orders
were granted favours -

arable land to farm
or metals to work -

and in return they brought
their tributes to the audiencias.

All this bounty was stored
in hundreds of storerooms

in the palaces
and the outlying regions.

The Chimu had no currency,

so these storerooms were their banks

amassing the vast wealth
of the whole empire

here in its capital city.

Every level of Chimu society
seemed to work together,

giving and taking tributes,

but they all seemed to know

on which side of the palace walls
they belonged.

The city
is an architectural interpretation

of the beliefs of the Chimu -

in other words, everything is built
around and for the royal family.

Inside the compounds,

the kings and queens of Chan Chan
hosted sacrifices and feasts,

which loyal subjects watched in awe.

And in their storerooms they
amassed their gold and their silver.

But there was one thing
that they couldn't get enough of,

that they may have valued
even more highly than gold.

To see it,
I'm going back to the shore.

A lot of people I know
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This is the spondylus shell,

which lives further up the coast

in the warmer, deeper waters
off modern-day Ecuador.

For the Chimu, this little shell was
highly prized as a status symbol.

Spanish chroniclers
recorded that the Chimu

believed the oyster inside
was the food of the gods.

Its vivid pink shell adorned Chimu
jewellery and precious artefacts.

But it was valued for more
than its vibrant exterior.

Surely it had other qualities
that made it so precious.

One quite interesting theory is that
during prolonged El Nino conditions,

sea surface temperatures here
would have warmed up,

allowing the spondylus to move down
and live off coastal Peru.

The idea is that the Chimu

thought that the spondylus
had some sort of predictive power

and that it was the harbinger
of doom.

Like the sea itself, the spondylus
was endowed with unearthly powers.

Perhaps the elite of Chan Chan

believed that, with the spondylus,

they could divine their fate or
predict the will of the sea goddess.

These days, spondylus shells can be
found in Peru's tourist markets,

a sad echo of the days

when they were cherished
for their spiritual value.

Hola. Como estas?
Hola. Como estas?

Like many ancient cultures,

the Chimu buried their dead with
their most treasured possessions.

I'm going to see an excavation
of a Chimu woman

whose remains might shed more light

on the true value
of these enigmatic shells.

In 2010, this late middle-aged woman
was excavated

and alongside her body
was found all of her grave goods -

lovely Chimu ceramics,
beautiful copper metal objects,

but most valuable of all,
clutched in her right hand,

is a spondylus shell.

These shells...

There was no safety equipment
in Chimu -

they had to freedive down to the
sea floor, pluck them off the bottom

and they represent the most valuable
item within the Chimu culture.

The human cost of their harvest

must have added enormous value
to these shells.

Owning one
would surely mark its owner out

as an elite individual
in life and in death. Throughout Peru,

death has always been seen
as a continuation of a journey.

In Chan Chan,

the king's journey
into the next life

began with an elaborate ritual

that has been captured

in one of the rarest
and most extraordinary artefacts...

..not just in Peru,
but in the whole of South America.

I couldn't wait to see it.

So just unpacking this box,

and inside are these beautiful
little wooden figurines.

And we know
from the date that these are Chimu.

It's very rare
to get preserved wood in artefacts.

It's a real privilege to look inside

and see
these little wooden figurines

depicting a scene
from a Chimu burial.

It's an absolutely incredible level
of preservation

and you can still see
the paint colours

on the back of these friezes

showing these fish on the back.

It's beautiful.

What we've seen in Chan Chan

is the physical embodiment
of Chimu ideology

built into the very fabric
of the city.

This extraordinary artefact

brings together the rich threads
of Chimu culture

into one evocative scene of life
and death in the capital city.

It really is breathtaking.

This is a beautiful collection
of 'maquetas' -

wooden figurines depicting
the burial of a Chimu royal.

Found in 1995,
it reinforces many of the details

that we learn from the chronicles

written by the first Spanish
to arrive here in coastal Peru.

Here we can see the mummified
remains of the Chimu royal

being carried
in a funerary procession

towards the palace complex.

You can see the feathers preserved,

and that's what gives
this little basket its colour.

The figurines each have an inlay of
white shell, like a mother of pearl,

and the red
is part of the spondylus shell.

What we can see
are many of the details

associated with the rituals

that would have been carried out
on this important day.

You get a whole different set of
characters within this procession,

from members of the royal family,
to priests, musicians.

At the back you can see one figure,
right at the back of the procession,

naked, hands tied behind their back,

which looks like
he could be in trouble -

a human sacrifice victim.

At the front we have
a very interesting character

carrying a basket
full of pulverised spondylus shell.

This whole procession

would have been walked on a bed
of pulverised spondylus shell.

Again we see
the importance in spondylus

within these Chimu rituals.

The level of detail
in these maquetas

helps change my understanding
of death within the Chimu culture.

It's not about
the end of the life of the royal

as much as their transference into
a new role as an immortal ancestor,

or as a 'minaus',
as they are often referred to.

This understanding is important

because the royal lives on forever

within the belief structure
of the Chimu.

And one of the details
that I really like

is that the thing
they're all walking towards

is the palace complex

and you can see the representation
of the adobe walls

exactly like you see them in
the palace complexes at Chan Chan.

It's easy to imagine
the funeral procession

carrying the monarch's body,
dressed in their burial regalia,

through these gates
to the next life.

In this burial platform,

archaeologists found
the remains of 300 young women,

suggesting that the perceived needs
of the king

buried just over that wall

proved fatal for others.

Perhaps those women
followed the procession,

like the sacrifice victim
in the maqueta,

their hands tied behind their backs.

The monarch was on his way
to becoming a minaus,

an immortal ancestor who would have
dominion over his people forever.

In Chan Chan, palaces
housed the living and the dead.

This is the royal tomb,

where the king or queen
would have been laid

during their transition
between mortality and immortality.

They didn't have to give up
their wealth or possessions

because they took their servants,
even their home, with them.

Their palace became their mausoleum.

This meant
that the heir to the throne

had to prove their own mettle

by conquering new lands
and building their own palace.

This tradition
is known as split inheritance.

The next in line
inherited the right to rule,

but not the wealth or revenues

that had belonged
to the previous monarch.

To earn their own tributes,

the monarchs had to give
something back to their people.

That meant each new king or queen

was highly motivated and keen
to demonstrate their ambition.

Because each new king or queen had
to establish their own reputation,

it explains their relentless drive,

that Chimu aggression
to conquer new territory.

It also explains why there are
so many palaces here at Chan Chan

and that they all date
to different periods.

The 10 palaces are a memorial to
the triumphs of the Chimor Kingdom,

a kingdom where the people
had brought water to the desert

and vast riches
to its kings and queens...

..where shocking sacrifices
were made to appease the gods

to protect the kingdom
from the elements.

But in the 1460s,
Chimor was gravely threatened,

not by another El Nino,

but by a force that would change
South America forever.

As the Chimu were extending
their northern frontier,

another empire was on the march -

the Inca.

From their Andean strongholds
further south,

they prepared to conquer the coast.

Around 1463, uniformed Inca soldiers
descended from the mountains

to meet the Chimu.

Not even this powerful empire
could withstand the Inca for long.

By 1470, the last king of Chimor
was defeated

and exiled
to the victors' capital of Cusco.

A society that embodied hierarchy
for 450 years

was suddenly without a ruler.

With nobody in control,
the Chimu were lost.

Chan Chan was abandoned.

Its people scattered
to the surrounding deserts.

When the Spanish arrived in 1527,

they brought
lethal European diseases

and filled their galleons
with gold and silver.

Tragically, the ruins of Chan Chan

have been repeatedly looted
over the past 500 years.

By the time archaeologists arrived
in the 20th century,

the El Ninos had transformed it
into a true lost city,

a ruin blasted by sand and storms.

After centuries of neglect,

the painstaking process
of conserving and excavating it

is under way.

Archaeologist Margarita Pena
is overseeing the project.

Today, Chan Chan enjoys the status
and protection it deserves.

In 1986,
it was made a World Heritage site

and it's taken its rightful place

in the pantheon
of Peru's great cultures.

The palaces, friezes
and fragile adobe structures

are being protected and displayed

and it's a testament
to the builders of this amazing city

that 500 years after the last king
of Chimor was exiled by the Inca,

the corridors, plazas
and palaces of Chan Chan

still inspire such awe.

Supertext Captions by
Red Bee Media Australia
Captions copyright SBS 2013

Good evening. Ricardo Goncalves with a World News Australia update. And a state of emergency has been declared over bushfires raging in New South Wales. The search continues for the identity of a mystery young girl found in Greece. And Sydney celebrates as its most famous landmark turns 40. I'm back with another World News Australia update at 9:30pm.

For centuries,

our kings and queens have been laid
to rest in the finest tombs.

But for 500 years, the body
of one of them has been missing.

Our most infamous monarch,
Richard III.

CROWD: God save King Richard!

Last summer, a team of archaeologists
and enthusiasts

unearthed a skeleton in a car park...

No... no.

that might just be the missing king.

...of Richard III, one of the most
reviled kings in British history...

In the months since,

scientists have been trying
to unlock that skeleton's secrets

and reveal its identity.

This is the exclusive inside story
of that incredible journey

I'm sorry, I can't.

and the discoveries along the way.

The shape of the vertebrae changes
as it goes down the spine.

We'll learn how
the man in the car park died...

It's a very, very dramatic injury.

and reveal his face
for the first time.

Doesn't look like the face of a
tyrant. I'm sorry, but it doesn't.

All of it building to one result
that might just re-write history.

Wow! Gender shocker in lab.

I don't see bones on that table,
I see a man.

Woo! (Laughs)

CHOIR SINGS HANDEL'S
'ZADOK THE PRIEST'

MALE REPORTER:
..pictures of Prince Harry,

so this morning's Sun,
they're in there.

But if you're in Leicestershire
and Rutland this morning

we have perhaps the most exciting
story for a very, very long time.

This is history beingmade
in Leicester today

as a search begins for the remains
of a king of England.

FEMALE REPORTER: Richard III
could be buried under a car park

in the city centre, and historians
and archaeologists alike

will eagerly await developments
over the next fortnight.

It seemed utterly bonkers.

One of the things you don't do
in archaeology

is go looking for a specific thing

because chances are
you'll never find it.

And you don't go looking
for famous people.

REPORTER: The world's media are here
at the moment.

I tell you one thing.
It is very, very exciting.

It's the first ever search
for the grave of an anointed king.

So to find him
it would be fantastic.

Really fantastic. I mean,
we are pretty excited about it.

I'm not sure they thought
bunch of cranks

but I think they thought
it was a very long shot.

There are people who have these
great dreams of finding things

because as an archaeologist

I just know how many variables
there are at play onany excavation.

So chances of finding Richard
was a million to one.

Of all the kings and queens
of England

one story has fascinated me
since I was a kid.

It's the legend of Richard III,

the hunchback king
with a withered arm

who murdered the princes in the tower

and died in battle,
yelling for a horse.

Elizabeth the First there.

Henry VIII, her father,

and Britain's first ever recorded
fat man.

His father Henry VII

who took the crown from Richard III
at the Battle of Bosworth.

Here he is. Wow.

The legendary Richard III.

You can definitely see
a kind of a hunch.

I've come to this
as a comedian/actor,

so my introduction to Richard III

was Laurence Olivier's depiction.

And he had this, like,
I remember very vividly,

he had this kiddie catcher,
he had this prosthetic nose

and I think a protrusion of the chin

and he sort of sets off
clumping across the set.

I can smile,

and murder whilst I smile.

And cry content to that
which grieves my heart,

and wet my cheeks
with artificial tears,

and frame my face to all occasions.

The idea of searching
for the bones of a king

who was evil personified,
seemed intriguing enough.

But then, on the way to Leicester,

I started reading
about the people behind the dig

and it got even more curious.

This project began, not with
archaeologists or historians,

but as the passion project
of one woman, Philippa Langley.

Going in search of his remains,
it's kind of the holy grail.

Three years of...basically non-stop.

Non-stop cajoling, non-stop begging
in some places.

From her home in Edinburgh,

Philippa helps organise
the Richard III Society,

a group who believe Richard
was a good king,

horribly maligned by Shakespeare

and that this is a wrong
that must be righted.

Yeah, but we need the funding,
that's the thing.

Philippa joined forces
with a historian

who was investigating the legend

that Richard's body was
unceremoniously hurled in a river

after his death in battle.

It became obvious to me
when I looked into this story

that it was one of the many myths
about Richard III.

John was interested in an old theory
suggesting Richard's grave

in fact lay in the church
of a medieval friary,

somewhere under the car park
of Leicester social services.

When we looked at the car park
for the first time when it empty,

lo and behold, in this very spot,

there was a parking space
with 'R' marked on the tarmac.

I got the strangest sensation
when I was in that area,

in that place.

I absolutely knew that I was
standing on Richard's grave.

Hmm. More convinced than ever,
Philippa took the project

to the archaeologists
at Leicester University.

Initially I thought,

oh dear, it's somebody who think
it's going to be really easy

just to dig in the rightspot
and find exactly what they want.

But then it became clearthere was
some very good solid research