Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Moche civilization

The Moche civilization flourished in northern Peru from about AD 100 to AD 800, during the Regional Development Epoch. While still the subject of some debate, many scholars contend that the Moche were not politically organized as monolithic empire or state but rather as a group of autonomous polities that shared a common elite culture as seen in the rich iconography and monumental architecture that survive today.

They are particularly noted for their elaborate painted ceramics, gold work, monumental constructions (huacas) and irrigation systems. Moche history may be broadly divided into three periods – the emergence of the Moche culture in Early Moche (AD 100–300), its expansion and florescence during Middle Moche (AD 300–600), and the urban nucleation and subsequent collapse in Late Moche (AD 500–750).

The mystery of the sacrifices

Both iconography and the finds of human skeletons in ritual contexts seems to indicate that human sacrifice played a significant part in Moche religious practices. These rites appear to have involved the elite as key actors in a spectacle of costumed participants, monumental settings and possibly the ritual consumption of blood.

The Gold Mausoleum

Walter Alva prompted the construction of a museum called the Royal Tombs of Sipan, which was inaugurated in 2002. It is located in Lambayeque, and was inspired by the ancient pyramids of the truncated pre-Hispanic Moche civilization, (I to VII century AD). The museum displays more than two thousand pieces of gold.

Material culture

Moche pottery is some of the most varied in the world. The use of mould technology is evident which would have enabled the mass production of certain forms. But despite this, they had a large variation in shape and theme with most important social activities documented in pottery including war, sex, metal work, and weaving. Given the unusual emphasis on life-like depictions on the famous elite portrait vases, some have suggested that individuality was an important aspect of Moche political culture.

Recent discoveries

In 2005, a mummified Moche woman was discovered at the Huaca Cao Viejo, part of the El Brujo archeological site on the outskirts of Trujillo, Peru. It is the best-preserved Moche mummy found to date and the tomb that housed her had unprecedented elaborateness.

The archaeologists on the site believe that the tomb had been undisturbed since approximately 450 AD. The tomb also contained various military and ornamental artifacts, including war clubs and spear throwers. A garroted young girl, probably a servant, was found in the tomb with her. Peruvian and U.S. archaeologists in collaboration with National Geographic announced news of the discovery in May 2006.

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