Ñaimlap, the Birds, and the Sea: Viewing an Ancient Peruvian Legend through the Lens of Onomastics

Matthias Urban, Rita Eloranta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Among the most intriguing oral testimonies of the late pre-Hispanic cultures
of the Peruvian North Coast are the legends of origin that the Spanish were
still able to record. In this article, we explore the names of the (mythological)
first rulers and their associates which figure in one particularly famous North-
Coast legend, that of Ñaimlap, the mythological founder of Lambayeque.
We show that the name of Ñaimlap, as well as those of his courtiers and
successors, can be attributed to the Mochica language. We also provide, to
the extent possible, etymologies. Two names of the Ñaimlap dynasty, those
of the dynastic founder Ñaimlap himself and his grandson Escuñain, reveal
avian associations, while that of one of his officers, Ñina Cala, shows maritime
connections. Both aspects match the structure of the Ñaimlap myth, in which
the ruler arrives from a foreign land via a sea route.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalNames : A Journal of Onomastics
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)154-166
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 612,1 Languages
  • anthroponyms
  • ancient Peru
  • Peruvian North Coast
  • etymology
  • mythology
  • Ñaimlap
  • Mochica language


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