Moche culture

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The distribution area of ​​the Mochica culture in Peru

The Moche culture (after the river Río Moche , also Mochica ) developed from the 1st century to the 8th century on the north coast of Peru ( South America ). Like its successor, the Chimú culture , it had its center in the area of ​​the modern city of Trujillo .

History and culture

Independent cities with their own kings and priesthoods formed along irrigated valleys, giving rise to the highly developed Moche culture.

In the 7th century the finds suddenly stop. It is likely that several particularly severe El Niño disasters occurred over a period of more than 30 years with heavy rainfall and the destruction of the irrigation infrastructure. After that, another thirty-year drought probably caused the Moche to give up their large cities and set up smaller settlements in the hinterland. During this time, there must have been a civil war over the remaining food and water resources, as a result of which social unrest and ongoing famine drowned the Moche culture.

Mochica pottery

In terms of the technologies available, the Moche culture can be compared to the Copper Age and Bronze Age in Europe and the Orient.

With the two adobe pyramids Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, the Moche erected the largest buildings in ancient South America. They did not yet have their own script, but their pictographic representations left a vivid picture of their world.

Researchers have found evidence of the Moche cult of the dead. According to this, they first let the deceased rot in the open air, so that the flies involved could free the soul and go out into the world again, only to be buried with grave goods afterwards . According to the researchers, paintings suggest that the fly was also worshiped.

Excavations teach about numerous bloody rituals, including a. Human sacrifices through which the gods were asked for fruitful rain in the desert region. The function of a woman as high priestess is documented by finds, who, for example, offers the ruler the blood of the victims in a chalice in a representation. There is controversy about who the victims were. Christopher Donnan and Izumi Shinada assume that they were losers in ritual battles among members of the local elite. John Verano and Richard Sutter, on the other hand, believe that the victims were warriors caught in clashes with other Moche settlements or abutting peoples.

One theory of the Moche's demise is that a rigid ideology contributed to its demise. The Moche obviously put a lot of strength into their rituals. Most of the time, the young and productive members of the community were sacrificed, probably depriving oneself of the basis for a possible future.


A particularly ingenious arable farming technique and a terracing and irrigation system, which distributed the water from the Andes highlands in the desert region of the Rio Moche, enabled two to three harvests a year. In addition to maize , which formed the basis of the diet, a variety of crops could be detected ( beans , peanuts , chilies , avocados , potatoes , pumpkins , cotton ). Some of the corn was used to make chicha , an alcoholic beer . The Moche raised ducks , guinea pigs and a type of llama that was specially adapted to the coastal climate. In this way, surplus goods ensured a stable economy. Trade was also of existential importance for the Moche: they cultivated a complex network of cultural and economic relationships in different directions.


Metal processing

The craft was highly developed. The Moche had a distinctive metalworking technology. In addition to gold and silver , copper was also processed. The Moche also mastered the technique of alloying copper and thus produced Tumbago . They have already been able to gild copper surfaces.


The ceramic workpieces make up a large proportion of the found objects and are so realistic that they have been referred to as a “ceramic picture book”. Famous are the stirrup vessels, which in their lively and realistic depictions depict certain people, as well as animals, plants, demons, all kinds of activities, war, love life, rituals and mythology. It is unclear whether the diverse representations of erotic objects and larger-than-life genitals are spontaneous, life-affirming expressions, or whether this branch, like many others, belongs to the realm of rite and religion, with frequent representations of heterosexual and homosexual anal eroticism Raise questions.

Especially in the mass production of ceramic vessels, models were repeatedly used that made it possible to manufacture large quantities of similar vessels. Two-part ceramic molds into which the fresh clay was pressed were used as models. Once this was a little dry, the respective halves of the vessel could easily be removed from the molds and put together. Although the seams were usually carefully plastered afterwards, they can still be seen on some vessels.

Señor de Sipan

At Huaca Rajada in February 1987, the undisturbed plant of the Royal Tombs of Sipan was found and excavated. The excavations under Walter Alva , the then director of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional Brüning of Lambayeque, were preceded by grave looters. It is the tomb of a prince known today as Señor de Sipán . His priest and a military commander , among other things, were buried in side graves so that they could still serve him after death.

The ruler was in the grave with his concubines and other members of his people, some of whom had been sacrificed at the time of his death. In his right hand he held a golden scepter, the tomb at his feet shows defeated and subjugated opponents. Head and ear jewelry served as visible signs of the reign.

In 2002 the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán (Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán) was opened. It is modeled on a Moche pyramid and shows and explains the Moche culture on the basis of over 400 gold, silver and jeweled pieces of jewelry and the new mausoleum of the "Lord of Sipán" (Director: Walter Alva Alva ).

In 2009, next to the Huaca Rajada in Sipán, the “Museo del Sitio” was opened, which exhibits the latest grave finds from the royal tombs.

Senora de Cao

The Señora de Cao was a ruler of the Moche culture, whose well-preserved mummy was found in 2005 in the Cao pyramid (a tomb specially built for her). The mummy was recovered with the help of a shaman by the archaeologists around Regulo Franco Jordan and Juan Vilela Puelles and is so far unique in the history of ancient America. It is about a 28-year-old woman whose long black hair, fingernails and toenails, and internal organs are in remarkably good condition. She was pregnant and tattooed with spiders and snakes. The cause of death is so far unknown. She is clearly identified as ruler by her grave goods, with which a ruler was sent on a journey to the afterlife among the Moche (a mask made of gold that covered her face, precious jewelry, ceramics, two ceremonial clubs and 28 spear throwers). The skeletons of several guards match this as well as the remains of a strangled girl that Franco discovered next to the grave. The find is considered sensational because it testifies for the first time to a woman with significant religious and / or political power in the pre-Inca culture.

The excavation complex Huaca El Brujo, a 2 km² large ruin complex about 60 km north of Trujillo, has turned out to be the central cult site of the Moche in the Chicama Valley. Since mid-2007 the Señora de Cao can be seen in a museum directly at the excavation site.


  • Christian F. Feest , Peter Kann, Johannes Neurath: The antiquity of the New World. Pre-European cultures of America. Reimer, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-496-01096-7 .
  • Manuela Fischer (Red.): El Dorado: Das Gold der Fürstengräber (= publications by the Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin. NF Vol. 60 = publications by the Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin. Department American Archeology. Vol. 9). Bookstore edition. Berlin, Reimer 1994, ISBN 3-496-01114-9 .
  • The princely tomb of Sipán. Discovery and restoration. = La tumba del Señor de Sipán. Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz 1989, ISBN 3-88467-022-0 .
  • Victor Wolfgang von Hagen : The desert kingdoms of Peru . Paul Zsolnay, Vienna 1964.
  • Monika Hagenberg (ed.): Gold from ancient Peru. The royal tombs of Sipán. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit 2001, ISBN 3-7757-0959-2 .
  • Jeffrey Quilter: The Moche of Ancient Peru: Media and Messages . Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA) 2010, ISBN 978-0-87365-406-7
  • Martin Schmid: The Mochica on the north coast of Peru. Religion and art of a pre-Inca Andean high culture. Diplomica-Verlag, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8366-1370-5 .
  • Mona Suhrbier, Gerda Kroeber-Wolf (ed.): Moments. Ceramics of the Moche and Shipibo, Peru (= Gallery 37. Vol. 14). Museum of World Cultures, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-88270-413-6 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Moche culture  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Angelika Franz: insect archeology: funeral feast with maggot gray. In: Spiegel Online , October 7, 2010.
  2. Victor Wolfgang von Hagen: The desert kingdoms of Peru . Paul Zsolnay, Vienna 1964, p. 113.
  3. Peter Kann, Gerard van Bussel: Erotic art of ancient Peru. Sensual-over-sensual. Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-901005-04-8 , especially p. 86.
  4. ^ Mary Weismantel: Moche Sex Pots: Reproduction and Temporality in Ancient South America. In: American Anthropologist. Vol. 106, No. 3, ISSN  0002-7294 , pp. 495-505, online (PDF; 1.4 MB) .
  5. Gisa Funck: A Pacific Tutankhamun. In: Die Tageszeitung , January 16, 2001.
  6. Information about the exhibition: Gold from ancient Peru. The royal tombs of Sipán.