Journal of World Prehistory, Vol. 16, No. 2, June 2002 (
Moche Politics, Religion, and Warfare
InthisessayIbrieﬂyreviewthehistoryofMochestudies,theessentialfeaturesof this archaeological culture of the North Coast of Peru (ca. 1900–1100
),anditsgeneraleconomy.Ithenpresentcurrentissues,discussions,anddebateson Moche regional political organization, religion, warfare, and their interre-lations. I suggest that the interpretation of Moche art has been undertheorizedand the interpretation of archaeology has lacked nuance. I question the pro- posal of warfare as “ritual,” that the temple mound complexes were centers of political power, that the elite buried in them were rulers, that the compoundsandstreetsnearthemwerecities,andwhetherproposalsforaconquestMoche state are plausible. I suggest that these and other interpretations about theMoche are becoming accepted as facts without considering alternative inter- pretationsofthedataandthatmuchinformationislacking.Ratherthanhavingreached a stage when we can synthesize concepts about Moche culture we areonly just beginning to understand it.
Andes; Moche; politics; religion; warfare.
From many perspectives, the Moche resemble the Maya. Like Mayastudies, Moche research boasts a venerable historiography, having attractedsome of the most energetic and creative national and foreign scholars to theancient relics of Peru’s North Coast. Like the Maya, Moche material cultureis distinct and attractive to Western eyes and tastes, eliciting terms such as“classic” and “ﬂorescent.” Moche and Maya architecture and portable ob- jects are compelling to art historians, archaeologists, and laypeople in ways
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2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation