You are on page 1of 2

Current Anthropology Volume 58, Number 2, April 2017 307

Book and Film Reviews Moche comes in the form of human sacrice. Bourget asks
what role ritualized human sacrice played in the culture and
ideology of the Moche. Like most Moche scholars, he recog-
nizes that people, objects, and places featured in Moche ico-
Reinforcing Power through Violence nography are representative of real people and events, and he
uses this to aid his analysis of objects found in the archaeo-
and Ritual Ecology logical record. In his analysis, he presumes that the iconog-
Shaina Molano raphy is representative of the ever-rened Moche ideological
program (14).
Interdisciplinary Humanities, School of Social Sciences, Hu-
One of the strongest contributions of the volume is the fo-
manities, and Arts, University of California, Merced, 5200 North
cus on the plaza 3A and platform II excavations at the Huaca
Lake Road, Merced, California 95343, USA (smolano@ucmerced
de la Luna site (chapters 3 and 4). Archaeological data from
.edu). 7 VII 16
plaza 3A reveal that approximately 75100 males were sac-
Sacrice, Violence, and Ideology among the Moche: The Rise riced over many rain events interspersed with times of cli-
of Social Complexity in Ancient Peru. By Steve Bourget. mactic dryness. Biological anthropological evidence suggests
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. that there were extended periods where injuries were repeat-
edly sustained and healed for the victims that he argues may
How do we understand the roles that ritual and ideology play be representative of the waiting time for the large-scale rain
in the rise of social complexity in antiquity? What types of evi- events needed to perform the actual ritual sacrices. Periods
dence does the archaeological record provide us to answer this of time when ENSO events did not occur may have been used
question? Moreover, what lines of evidence can be used in con- for preliminary rituals, including trauma inicted on the vic-
junction with archaeological evidence to better understand the tims. However, much is still unknown about the nature of the
importance of ritual and ideology in the formation of social sacricial events, and this is merely presented as a hypothesis.
complexity? Steve Bourgets Sacrice, Violence, and Ideology Excavations at platform II, alternatively, revealed three indi-
among the Moche attempts to better understand these ques- vidual tombs. Tombs 1 and 3 house adult males, while tomb 2
tions while looking at the social complexity and ideological sys- houses a juvenile male, possibly associated with the tomb 3
tem of the Moche polity in the pre-Columbian north-central individual. On the basis of afliated ceramic iconography from
Andes. Bourget addresses how the Moche, at different stages the tombs, which show prominent Moche themes, it is thought
of their political development, used violence, in the form of that the individuals from tombs 1 and 3 are sacricers. Bourget
sacrice and bloodletting, as well as ritual ecology to establish asserts that it is imperative to look at the burials from plaza 3A
the power of the elite, thus reinforcing their social and ideo- and platform II within the larger context of Huaca de la Luna,
logical control. Furthermore, Bourget hypothesizes that El Nio asking who were the sacricers as well as the sacriced and
Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events were transformed and what was their place within in the larger Moche population,
used by the Moche to impose their ideology and symbolic sys- social structure, and ideology? Additionally, what was the role
tem. They did this despite potential harm and damage caused played by El Nio phenomena during these sacricial events
by ENSO events (5). This book addresses Moche social com- and within the larger Moche ideology? These interesting ques-
plexity through multiple lines of evidence, including analysis tions that tie direct evidence to larger questions of sacrice and
of architecture, ideology, human remains, and ecological rem- ritual ecology are one of the highlights of this volume.
nants affected by recurring El Nio events in the form of fau- In the books building chapters, Bourget addresses the roles
nal remains and ood patterns. Through this innovative inte- and nature of violence within Moche culture, the interrelated
gration of data sets, Bourget presents a series of novel advances nature of power and ritual ecology, and the potential effective-
in this strong volume. ness of Moche ideology. Despite extensive excavations at mul-
Sacrice, Violence, and Ideology among the Moche begins tiple sites within the northern and southern Moche peripheries
with an introduction to the cultural landscape of the Peruvian in the past few decades, very little is known about Moche rul-
north-central coast and a brief look at the Moche culture itself. ership. Bourget successfully breaks down Moche rulership into
Rising to power in the Early Intermediate Period (AD 1700), three stages (A, B, and C). Throughout the stages, certain elite
the Moche culture was potentially comprised of two polities individuals seem to take on more prominent roles in ceramic
that exhibited signs of complex social structure and an elabo- iconography, as exemplied through common thematic scenes
rate ideological system exemplied through monumental ar- of ritual battle and sacrice. Violence, as seen in these motifs of
chitecture, detailed iconography and art, and highly ritualized ritual warfare, sacricial acts, and bloodtaking, seem to reinforce
acts. The most prominent documented ritual activity of the the importance and power of these key elite individuals. Data
collected at plaza 3A suggests that these ritualized events hon-
oring these elite four individuals (real or not) were large events
For permission to reuse, please contact where allegiance could be given to this prominent system and

This content downloaded from on April 01, 2017 10:51:05 AM

All use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (
308 Current Anthropology Volume 58, Number 2, April 2017

ideology. Additionally, this elite power might have been re- Captives: How Stolen People Changed the World. By
inforced through the use of ritual ecology and ENSO events for Catherine M. Cameron. Cambridge: Cambridge University
major sacricial moments. What was the purpose of such sac- Press, 2015.
ricial events? Were they conducted in times of stress (caused
by severe weather events) to appeal to some higher power, or This slim volume packs lot of information into a very few pages.
possibly these weather events were utilized to reinforce the It is clear, well written, engaging, and puts forward an impor-
power and structure of the elite? The purposefully built archi- tant idea: that captives (and slaves, who Cameron includes as
tecture for ritual and sacricial events in association with elab- captives for the purpose of her argument) are not passive tools
orately constructed iconography displaying images of sacrice of their masters but rather are potent sources of ideas and in-
suggest that these events were carefully planned. It is unclear novations that can have a dramatic impact on the groups in
how the ENSO events factored in, but it is likely that they were which they are captive. I was fortunate to be a participant in
a part of this purposefully conceived plan as well. the Foundations of Archaeological Inquiry conference that kin-
Bourget ends his book returning to a common question for dled Camerons interest in slavery and captivity (Cameron
Moche scholars in recent years: what was the role of sacrice 2008), and I found it fascinating to see how she has developed
in the Moche social structure and ideology? Two main schools and rened the nascent ideas discussed at the conference into
of thought regarding this issue have arisen: those who argue a coherent and potentially important perspective on the role
that the sacricial remains were from individuals of higher played by captives in cultural transmission and change.
status, captured in ritual battles, and those who think the sac- The rst chapter lays out the general goals of the work.
riced individuals were captured during normative battles be- While aimed primarily at archaeologistswhom Cameron ar-
tween competing groups or polities. Moche battle scenes do gues have ignored the importance of captivesshe also points
not often show Moche warriors ghting other groups, and they out that little anthropological work has been done on captive
do not show grand celebrations of victories of other groups. taking and the role played by captives, at least compared with
Bourget claims that they most often depict a number of indi- that for slavery. Cameron explains why archaeologists and other
viduals clad in warrior costumes, battling others dressed in social scientists should pay more attention to captives: (1) they
a similar fashion. Bourget presents two possible conclusions increase social stratication, (2) they provide labor and so-
based on the archaeological and symbolic information: (1) the cial power, (3) they dene social boundaries, and (4) they are
Moche would obtain their captives from regular combat with conduits for cultural transmission. To explore these roles, Cam-
possibly nearby enemies, other Moche groups, or foreign groups; eron takes an explicitly comparative approach, looking at exam-
and (2) the Moche would obtain sacricial victims through a ples of captives and captivity in societies around the world.
selection process that may have included ritualized battles. This is the one aspect of the book that I dislike, for Cameron,
In this powerful and extensive book, Bourget does an excel- in my perspective, is not really undertaking a comparative
lent job of using multiple lines of evidence to assess the roles study; rather, she is examining a series of case studies in a non-
played by violence and ritual ecology within the larger Moche systematic way.
social and ideological system, as exemplied in the excava- A true comparative study of captives would start with a ran-
tions at Huaca de la Luna. Furthermore, Bourget details how dom sample of societies and identify specic aspects of those
the Moche rulers and elite could have used ENSO events to societies, the captives in them, and the nature of captivity to
promote a type of ritual ecology that would further reinforce explore. Information on these specic aspects would be col-
their power as well as the larger Moche ideological system that lected from ethnographies and then analyzed using a formal
promoted the necessity of ritual battle and sacrice. Although method to empirically identify similarities and differences and,
the nature of excavations and resulting conclusions from such where possible, to explore general patterns shared widely by
a massive and important temple structure would naturally yield the societies. That Cameron does not undertake a systematic
information regarding elite and ritual acts, it would be interesting comparative study does not detract from the book, but I think
to build on this work with more information regarding the role the book would have been much stronger with some system-
played by common people within this larger ideological system. atic comparative analysis included. Indeed, one of the primary
sources Cameron uses is Orlando Pattersons classic Slavery
and Social Death (1982), which is a systematic comparative
work of the kind that Cameron might have emulated.
Cameron undertakes the primary comparative part of the
The Social Power of Captives book in the second chapter. She gives examples of captive
taking from around the world, although the focus of more
Peter N. Peregrine
than half the chapter is on North America. This is not par-
Lawrence University, 711 East Boldt Way, Appleton, Wiscon- ticularly surprising, as the ethnographic record about Na-
sin 54911, USA; and Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, tive North Americans is extraordinarily rich and, as Cameron
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, USA (peter.n.peregrine@lawrence points out, depopulation from European diseases and intensi-
.edu). 10 XI 16 ed conict following European intrusions may have increased

This content downloaded from on April 01, 2017 10:51:05 AM

All use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (