Ethnohistoric sources suggest that the Chimu Empire extended its control to far northern Peru, including Tumbes (Rowe 1948). The resources of far northern Peru and southern Ecuador were of interest to the Chimu, as indicated by the large quantities of Spondylus shells, beads, and other ornaments commonly found in Chimu sites (Cordy-Collins 1990; Hocquenghem 1993; Hocquenghem and Pena Ruiz 1994; Marcos 1977-78, Marcos and Norton 1984; Paulsen 1974; Pillsbury 1996). More than exotic items, Spondylus and Strombus shells were key elements in Chimu ceremonies and funerary rituals.
Current archaeological evidence indicates that Chimu influence was indirect in the Tumbes region, operating via exchange, perhaps commercial or between elites, including Spondylus shell and artifacts (Moore et al. 1997). Hocquenhem (1993:713) suggested that the Chimu incorporated the Tumbes region into its territory, and Theresa Topic (1990: 190) hypothesized that “ the degree of political complexity in this area prior to the Chimu incursion seems to have been rather low, and new centers had to be constructed to house the Chimu victors.” Preliminary archaeological fieldwork in Tumbes by Jerry Moore does not support these suggestions. Press-molded blackware ceramics have been recovered during archaeological survey in the Tumbes and Zarumilla River Valleys (Moore et al. 1997); some of these ceramics are probably Lambayeque pottery while others certainly date to the Chimu-Inca period. For example, test excavations at the late pre-Hispanic hamlet of Loma Saavedra (Moore et al. 2005:36) recovered a press-molded, stirrup-spout blackware vessel that dates after AD 1450 and is probably Chimu-Inka. Recent excavations at Huaca de Cabeza Vaca (also referred to as Corrales or San Pedro de los Incas [Ishida et al. 1960; Richardson et al. 1990]) indicate that this was a Late Horizon center, rather than one built under Chimu domination (Vilchez 2005). While it is clear that the Chimu had some access to Spondylus that was transshipped and probably worked in the Tumbes region, a direct Chimu imperial presence has not been documented.
South of Casma, Chimu ceramics have been reported from Huarmey and Chillon (Collier 1962; Kosok 1965; Mackey and Klymyshyn 1990; Thompson 1966), although Dillehay reports that no Chimu ceramics were found during his survey in the Chillon
Valley (Tom Dillehay, personal communication, 1990). No Chimu provincial centers south of Casma are known, despite assertions that Paramonga was a possible Chimu fortress in the Fortaleza Valley.