The Jequetepeque Valley is located approximately 70 miles north of Trujillo on Peru’s North Coast. It is the third largest valley in Peru and carries its second largest watershed. Seasonally abundant water, agricultural land, and access to marine and riverine resources made Jequetepeque attractive to autonomous settlement and imperial ambitions alike. In addition, the valley’s direct access to the highlands and proximity to Cajamarca (an important highland settlement) enabled frequent interaction between coastal and highland groups.
The ancient site of Talambo is located on the north bank of the Jequetepeque River at the neck of the lower valley. Its proximity to the intake point for the Talambo Canal, which watered the valley’s northernmost sector, provided its ancient inhabitants with a readily accessible supply of water and afforded them the opportunity for canal management. The site’s position at the narrow entrance to the middle valley and highlands was advantageous for both trade and defense. Talambo’s location at a point of transit and access to valuable water resources allowed the community to remain autonomous in some periods and contributed to their vulnerability in others.
The main sector of Talambo (also referred to as Talambo Oeste) consists of a large adobe enclosure, three huaca mounds, and numerous outbuildings. The main compound was constructed of adobe bricks with a stone and daub foundation. It incorporated a huaca (adobe mound) along the north perimeter wall, internal partitions and platforms, and an extensive adobe brick and field stone extension that abuts the entire eastern wall. The main compound is accessed through an entrance on the northwest side.
The main compound is surrounded by numerous smaller rectangular structures, particularly to the north and west of the core. Two additional huacas (including the site’s largest) are located southwest of this complex. The ancient Talambo Canal flows a short distance south of these mounds. The modern canal, which was built as part of the Gallito Ciego Dam Project in the 1980s, bisects these huacas. A large cemetery abuts the larger of these two mounds at its eastern base.
Additionally, the core of Talambo is flanked by numerous stone structures (including a small huaca complex) that are terraced into the nearby hillside of Cerro Sullivan (Talambo Este).
Talambo was first photographed by the Servicio Aerofotografico Nacional del Peru (SAN) and the U.S. Airforce as part of their aerial mapping efforts in WWII. Paul Kosok was the first to utilize these resources, in combination with ground survey, to address archaeological questions. His popular account (Kosok 1965), which melds archaeological survey with ethnography and travel log, includes descriptions of many significant archaeological sites and ancient irrigation networks on the North Coast. Of Talambo he wrote, “The site consists of habitation terraces, stone-walled fortifications, walled compounds and pyramids and once must have controlled the entrance and exit to the narrow upper part of the valley” (Kosok 1965:123).
The Gallito Ciego Dam project, which increased waterflow to the lower valley through a series of new canals, catalyzed more intensive scientific interest in the area through a number of archaeological surveys (Hecker and Hecker 1992, Ravines 1982, Eling 1987, Dillehay et al. 2009). Several of these surveys attempted to determine the chronology of Talambo. Based on extant ceramic evidence, Rogger Ravines estimated that Talambo was occupied from the Early Horizon (900-200 BCE) to Spanish conquest (1532 CE). Herbert Eling assigned the Talambo Canal to Period 2(500-700 CE) of his chronology, based on his detailed survey of the irrigation systems of the Jequetepeque Valley.
In 1977, Richard Keatinge and Geoffrey Conrad conducted a limited excavation at Talambo, focused on the north sector of the site (Keatinge and Conrad 1983). Like Ravines, they estimated that occupation began in the Early Horizon. Keatinge and Conrad uncovered a Chimú administrative structure with architectural parallels (an audiencia and niched rooms) to contemporary sites such as Farfán and Chan Chan.
Subsequent survey and modeling of the site have noted its place in the Chimú settlement hierarchy, to the near exclusion of other periods of occupation (with the exception of Eling 1987:456; Shimada 1994:121-122; Swenson 2004:404). Keatinge and Conrad placed the site within Mackey’s tiered settlement hierarchy (1987) as a tertiary center (second to Farfán at the regional level). Theresa Topic hypothesized that Talambo was the site of a major battle during the Chimú conquest of Jequetepeque, based on her identification of fortification walls and sling stones emanating in concentric circles around the site (Topic 1990).
In 2012-13, excavations by the Proyecto Arqueológico de Talambo Oeste (PATO) revealed that the site had a significantly more extensive occupational history than previously examined. The majority of extant architecture in this core sector (dated to the Late Intermediate Period and Late Horizon) overlays an earlier history of continuous occupation beginning in the Moche era, particularly in the southern portion of the settlement closest to the ancient Talambo Canal. Founded in the late Middle Moche/early Late Moche Period (ca. 600 CE), the community had lived autonomously on the plain and nearby hillside through the environmental degradation and demographic changes of the Moche collapse and Transitional period to emerge as an organically constituted Lambayeque settlement. The Chimú conquered Jequetepeque ca. 1300 CE, with Talambo among the first sites incorporated. The community lived under Chimú imperialism until the Inka conquered the region in the 1470s. Spanish conquest followed in the 1530s. Thus, in approximately two hundred years, the community of Talambo contended with three empires, each increasingly more alien. PATO's ongoing research at Talambo examines the material remains of each of these empires, as well as the continuing legacies of these colonial encounters.
Dillehay, Tom D., Kolata, Alan L., and Edward Swenson
2009 Paisajes Culturales En El Valle Del Jequetepeque: Los Yacimientos Arquelogicos. Quetzal.
Eling, Herbert Jr.
1987 The Role of Irrigation Networks in Emerging Societal Complexity during Late Prehispanic Times: Jequetepeque Valley, North Coast, Peru, Vol. I and II: Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. University of Texas at Austin.
Keatinge, Richard W., and Geoffrey W. Conrad
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Mackey, Carol J.
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1994 Pampa Grande and the Mochica Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Swenson, Edward R.
2004 Ritual and Power in the Urban Hinterland: Religious Pluralism and Political Decentralization in Late Moche Jequetepeque, Peru, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago.
Topic, Theresa Lange
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