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The Art and Archaeology of the Moche

An Ancient Andean Society of the Peruvian North Coast

Edited by Steve Bourget and Kimberly L. Jones

Publication Year: 2008

Renowned for their monumental architecture and rich visual culture, the Moche inhabited the north coast of Peru during the Early Intermediate Period (AD 100–800). Archaeological discoveries over the past century and the dissemination of Moche artifacts to museums around the world have given rise to a widespread and continually increasing fascination with this complex culture, which expressed its beliefs about the human and supernatural worlds through finely crafted ceramic and metal objects of striking realism and visual sophistication. In this standard-setting work, an international, multidisciplinary team of scholars who are at the forefront of Moche research present a state-of-the-art overview of Moche culture. The contributors address various issues of Moche society, religion, and material culture based on multiple lines of evidence and methodologies, including iconographic studies, archaeological investigations, and forensic analyses. Some of the articles present the results of long-term studies of major issues in Moche iconography, while others focus on more specifically defined topics such as site studies, the influence of El Niño/Southern Oscillation on Moche society, the nature of Moche warfare and sacrifice, and the role of Moche visual culture in decoding social and political frameworks.

Published by: University of Texas Press

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pp. viii

In November 2003, the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin hosted the Fourth D. J. Sibley Family Conference. This three-day symposium, entitled “The Art, the Arts, and the Archaeology of the Moche: An Ancient Andean Society of the Peruvian North Coast,” brought together a number of scholars directly involved in Moche studies. ...

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pp. ix-xiii

The Moche became known as a distinct cultural entity at the turn of the last century as a result of Max Uhle’s excavations at the Huacas de Moche site in the Moche Valley. Since that time, Moche monumental architecture and visual culture have fascinated scholars and laypeople alike. ...

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Chapter 1. Iconography Meets Archaeology

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pp. 1-21

There is great Moche art; there are many media for Moche art; and the archaeology of the last fifteen or so years has made a critical difference in knowledge of Moche art. Beginning with Max Uhle, a little over a hundred years ago, many contributions to Moche studies have been made, but the concentration and achievement of the recent work are unparalleled. ...

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Chapter 2. Sacrifices and Ceremonial Calendars in Societies of the Central Andes: A Reconsideration

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pp. 23-42

Without entering into a grand debate over the nature of sacrifice, this ritual act can be considered as an offering to animate or inanimate divinities, and as consecrated and placed continually outside of profane use between that of immolation and destruction. The sacrificial act can be thought of as expressing a dependent relationship between humans and mythical beings. ...

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Chapter 3. Ulluchu: An Elusive Fruit

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pp. 43-65

In the early 1970s, I became intrigued with an image of what appeared to be a comma-shaped fruit that appears frequently in Moche art (Figure 3.1). Rafael Larco Hoyle referred to the plant as ullucho or ulluchu (2001:52, 149–150).1 ...

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Chapter 4. Moche Masking Traditions

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pp. 67-80

The Moche made and used a variety of masks. To classify the different types, and to appreciate their distinct function, evidence must be assembled from the Moche artistic depictions that show masks being used, the Moche masks that are in museums and private collections today, and the Moche masks that have been excavated archaeologically. ...

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Chapter 5. Convergent Catastrophe and the Demise of Dos Cabezas: Environmental Change and Regime Change in Ancient Peru

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pp. 81-91

The archaeological complex of Dos Cabezas (long 7°21.031"S lat 79°34.753"W) was a regional hub of Peru’s prehistoric Moche culture. Situated immediately south of the Jequetepeque River mouth, the site was apparently the largest administrative center in this irrigated valley between about AD 300 and 650 (Figure 5.1). ...

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Chapter 6. Forensic Iconography: The Case of the Moche Giants

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pp. 93-111

The discoveries between 1977 and 2000 of five male giants at the site of Dos Cabezas, a Moche settlement situated in the delta of the Jequetepeque River valley (Figure 6.1), are the first reported cases of gigantism from prehistoric Peru (Cordy-Collins 2003). Of the myriad issues that surround these finds, two critical questions are: Who were these men? ...

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Chapter 7. Moche Forms for Shaping Sheet Metal

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pp. 113-128

The Moche were among the most sophisticated metallurgists of the ancient world. They were extremely skilled at casting, utilizing both open molds and the lost wax technique. ...

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Chapter 8. Moche Art Style in the Santa Valley: Between Being “à la Mode” and Developing a Provincial Identity

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pp. 129-152

The Moche are considered the first cultural group to attain a complexity that resembles a state-level organization on the Peruvian north coast. In such a complex society, the elite generally sponsor the production of goods, with material symbols created to project their strength. ...

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Chapter 9. The Priests of the Bicephalus Arc: Tombs and Effigies Found in Huaca de la Luna and Their Relation to Moche Rituals

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pp. 153-178

Moche iconography on ceramics and on some buildings has been one of the fundamental sources for reconstructing part of the mindset of this civilization, which lacked formal writing. From the naturalistic narrative interpretation of these images by Larco Hoyle (2001), to the thematic descriptions by Donnan (1978) and Hocquenghem (1987), and the most recent considerations of the images as mythic and ceremonial narrations, archaeology has not added much to the debate. ...

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Chapter 10. The Moche People: Genetic Perspective on Their Sociopolitical Composition and Organization

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pp. 179-193

One of the most persistent and distinguishing features of Moche archaeology has been its preoccupation with elite funerary practice and associated goods, rituals, and ideology, resulting in excavation of a relatively large number of well-preserved burials from various sites on the north coast. This chapter reports results of our ongoing, long-term mitochondrial DNA analysis of many of these burials. ...

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Chapter 11. Communality and Diversity in Moche Human Sacrifice

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pp. 195-213

Depictions of armed combat and of the capture and sacrifice of prisoners are well-known in Moche iconography. Since 1995, the iconographic record has been joined by archaeological evidence of the sacrificial practices themselves. ...

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Chapter 12. Art and Moche Martial Arts

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pp. 215-228

To judge by their art, the Moche were a warlike people. From early modeled warriors to late painted battle scenes, their ceramics celebrate the martial arts. The famous marching prisoner frieze at Huaca Cao Viejo (Figure 12.1) and a similar depiction recently discovered at Huaca de La Luna testify to the celebration of victorious battles, whether or not a specific battle is indicated in such scenes. ...

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Chapter 13. Moche Textile Production on the Peruvian North Coast: A Contextual Analysis

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pp. 229-245

Moche iconography is to South America what Attic Red Figure painting is to the Mediterranean Basin: a rich corpus of representational art providing modern viewers with insights into actions that were deemed worth exhibition. ...

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Chapter 14. Spiders and Spider Decapitators in Moche Iconography: Identification from the Contexts of Sip

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pp. 247-261

Following the discovery of Tombs 1 and 2, in 1987 the excavations at Sipán unearthed the elaborate funerary remains of a third high-ranking individual known as the Old Lord of Sipán. This Tomb 3 individual had been buried with an extensive assortment of metal, shell, ceramic, and feather objects (Figure 14.1). ...

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Chapter 15. The Third Man: Identity and Rulership in Moche Archaeology and Visual Culture

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pp. 263-288

This chapter is an exploration into the identity of a male individual buried in Tomb 3 at Sipán, and into the nature of rulership in Moche society. Commonly known as the Old Lord of Sipán, he was between 45 and 55 years of age (Alva and Donnan 1993). He had been buried in the first construction phase of the funerary platform, making him the most ancient high-ranking individual found at the site so far. ...


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pp. 289-291

E-ISBN-13: 9780292793866
E-ISBN-10: 0292793863
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292718678
Print-ISBN-10: 0292718675

Page Count: 315
Illustrations: 323 b&w illus., 7 tables, 14 color illus. in 8-page section, 8 maps, 4 graphs
Publication Year: 2008

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Subject Headings

  • Mochica Indians -- Antiquities -- Congresses.
  • Mochica art -- Congresses.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Peru -- Moche River Valley -- Congresses.
  • Moche River Valley (Peru) -- Antiquities -- Congresses.
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