Moche Mochica

On the north coast of Peru in the Moche valley and surrounding areas, flourished a rich culture that has been called both Mochica and Moche. There were large settlements, including some of the biggest temple mounds of the Americas. These also contained elaborate burials. Major irrigation works stretched for miles. Metal-working was well developed, and treasures in gold were buried with rulers, frequently dressed in costumes that identify them as personifications of deities. Murals showing mythical scenes have survived in considerable numbers. The pottery, both molded and painted, shows a tremendous range of subject matter that reveals a great deal about many aspects of Moche life. The culture is divided into five phases covering roughly the first seven centuries of the Christian era. Much of the material we will be considering comes from phase V (about 550-700 a.d.).

Donnan's (1976, 1978) work on Moche iconography established that at least the majority of Moche art (mostly pottery and some murals) could be considered as excerpts from a restricted series of basically religious scenes depicted in varying detail. He also maintained that even apparently secular depictions were actually extracted from larger religious scenes. Despite the importance of warfare to Moche conquest and expansion, he even argued that paintings of warfare represented something akin to Aztec "flower wars."5

Such conclusions cry out for some sort of systematic explanation and integration. This has been provided by Hocquenghem. She accepted Donnan's conclusions and suggested an astronomical-calendrical-ritual basis for them, closely related to Quechua ideas. She relied heavily but by no means exclusively on Zuidema and Urton for the latter. Hocquenghem went beyond Donnan by attempting to determine the number of "grand scenes" with precision and by pointing out that a "grand scene" may occur either with deity figures in animal form as actors, in which case, she regarded it as representing a myth, or with human actors, in which case, she regarded it as a ritual, re-enacting a myth. Her descriptive conclusion was that all scenes of Mochica art may be regarded as excerpts from a total of 18 grand scenes. The scenes can be put in a framework of the ceremonial year that corresponds remarkably well and in detail with the myths and ceremonial year of the Incas and with at least some modern beliefs and rituals. These include a number of parallels of highly specific items of an arbitrary nature (hence, unlikely to have arisen as convergent phenomena), and they include systemic parallels that can have only one or, sometimes, two placements as part of a system. Because Inca rituals incorporated nearly all aspects of daily life in one festival or another, these aspects of Mochica pottery can also be incorporated into the ceremonial year. If one accepts the basic argument, Donnan's conclusions are greatly reenforced.

Important stations of the ceremonial year were marked by three classes of astronomical phenomena: stellar, in the appearance, culmination, and disappearance of the Pleiades; solar, by equinoxes, solstices, and passage of the Sun through zenith and nadir; and lunar, by new and full Moon. However, although Hocquenghem interprets Moche iconography as entirely based on calendrical ritual, whose timing is astronomically based, she makes no attempt at astronomical interpretation beyond that which is explicit in some of her parallels, and in the identification of major figures of the iconography as Sun, Moon, and Thunder (including references to Thunder as a constellation). She seems to think that annually repetitive phenomena of the astronomical year are adequate to explain the material and apparently had no idea that the iconography may represent specific planetary actors or that World Ages, for example, may have specific astronomical referents. The latter possibilities are suggested by Sullivan's work on Inca astronomy and mythology. There may be some reconciliation of Hocquenghem's and Sullivan's views if ritual may be regarded as the compression into the span of a single year of celebrations of mythico-astronomical events that originally covered a substantial

5 The "flower wars" involved conflicts carried out for the purpose of securing captives for sacrifice and were not economic in nature.

Table 14.5. Mochica grand themes. Grand themes

1. Flowers thrown in the air, "Purification"

2. Union of Thunder and Moon(?) goddess;also Jaguar and Toad

3. Punishment, torture, place of execution

4. Manufactures, weaving

5. Deer hunting, scenes associated with death

6. Dance of the dead

7. Race

8. Offering and use of coca

9. Combat: Capture of prisoners

10. War dance with rope

11. Sacrifice

12. Victims to guano Islands: Seal hunts

13. Corpse preparation on guano islands

14. Passage to the land of the dead sodomy, masturbation (cf. 5&6)

15. Revolt of the artifacts

16. Gambling

17. Cultivated plants, masked dancers; toad with plants

18. Bridge of cords (Spider Path to Heaven)

Equivalent Quechua months and ceremonies

1. Coya Raymi

400 warriors expel illness Ritual copulation

2. Uma Raymi Weaving, ear-piercing

3. Aya marca

Death God on litter

4. Capac Raymi, Ritual races Initiation rites

Sacrifice of 500 children

5. Capac Camay

Flower war at new moon Multicolored rope dance

6. Hatun Pucuy

7. Pacha Pucuy

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Hunting Mastery Selected Tips

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