the moche narratives: visual media, myth and history in pre-hispanic northern coast of peru

November 28, 2012


Thursday, November 29th, 5 PM –  Morey 321

Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru
Visiting Assistant Professor


Almost 1500 years ago, in some of the fertile valleys in the desert north coast of Peru,
the Moche civilization flourished as one of the first and most powerful states in the
New Word. The Moche leaders managed the construction of hydraulic systems which
allowed intensive cultivation in extended agricultural fields, controlled a highly
specialized production and distribution of wealthy goods within elite networks,
mobilized an important military force resulting in the successful domination of
neighboring regions, and built monumental pyramids that constituted the centers of
political and religious power. Social order and the legitimization of the Moche state
system demanded various power strategies, including the construction of a strong
ethnic identity. Myth and rituals, transforming popular sentiments of fears and hopes
into a symbolic discourse, constituted the foundation of Moche identity and an
important factor in the consolidation of the Moche State. At the center of the mythical
and ritual discourse lies a heroic character, arriving to the Moche world seeking the
restoration of the cosmic order after chaos caused by supernatural creatures living in
the mountains and the ocean. The saga of this Hero, properly contextualized in the
history and the cultural development of the Moche agrarian communities and their
neighbors, allows us to reconstruct a process of building identity, where the use of
visual and performative media played a critical role in a context with no written


Sponsored by the Program of Archaeology, Technology and Historical
Structures, and the Departments of Anthropology, Religion and Classics, and
Art and Art History.

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