Moche Civilization

Moche Civilization

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The Moche was a pre-Inca civilization. They flourished in northern Peru, near the Pacific Ocean, between 100 AD and 800 AD. Construction of the Moche capital in Cerro Blanco started shortly after the Chicama culture integrated into the Moche society. In Cerro Blanco they constructed two enormous architectural complexes less than a mile apart. A short distance from the Cerro Blanco River they built the smaller of the two complexes which is called Huaca de la Luna. Rich polychrome murals of anthropomorphic beings decorate the walls of this monument. Closer to the river the Moche constructed the largest solid adobe structure ever erected in the Andes, which is called Huaca del Sol. More than 100 million adobe bricks were used in its construction. It is believed that many generations of Moche worked on this monument until its completion. At one time, these two amazing structures were surrounded by a multitude of adobe residential apartments, mausoleums, grand courts, workshops for craftsmen, and government buildings.

At the same time, Moche leaders developed agricultural lands and implemented irrigation systems. Archaeologists have uncovered raised platforms in agricultural fields that were used by supervising personnel. It is believed that everyone worked in the fields, and that it was probably a tax obligation.

By 500 AD, the Moche had completed the political unification of the north coast. The people of the Moche Valley and Cerro Blanco were living in peace. However, things were about to get bad. Before long, the Moche people suffered through a ten year drought. Then all of a sudden the city was ravaged by El Nino flooding. Massive amounts of topsoil were washed into the sea. The sediment from the top soil turned into sand and was subsequently deposited on the beach. In turn, the ocean winds blew the sand inland and the entire city was buried except for the two giant Huacas.

By 700 AD the Moche moved their capital to Pampa Grande in the Lambayeque Valley neck, about forty miles from the Pacific Ocean. This new capital or ceremonial center included huge pyramids, and one gargantuan adobe mound called Huaca Fortaleza. The adobe architecture found here was remarkably different from what is found in Cerro Blanco. Unlike the Huacas of Cerro Blanco, which were built of solid abode bricks, the Huaca Forteleza was constructed using a much faster method known as “chamber and fill.” Loose dirt was dumped into walled cribs. This method allowed for the rapid built up of dirt bulk.

Scientist have found evidence of El Nino flooding at almost every Moche ceremonial center, but they are still not sure if mother nature is what brought this civilization to an abrupt end. The do know that Pampa Grande was abandoned in a hurry. Its occupants torching the city on their way out. After the Moche fell religious concepts in the region change dramatically. People were no longer buried lying down, but instead were buried in a seated position. A new style emerged in the area called Sican, and a new political center emerged called Batan Grande.