The Lord of Sipán, the Mochica culture –

Unfortunately, we know little or very little about American cultures and peoples that are not the Incas, Mayas or Aztecs, However, there is a large amount of prehispanic cultures unknown to the vast majority, some continue to be forgotten, while others, thanks to archaeological finds, they are starting to get to know each other, surprising us with their culture, architecture, political structure, etc. We are talking about civilizations that lived in periods so long that they cover from the 1st to the 7th century. Such is the case of the Mochica culture, center of attention of this blog, let us know their way of life, their laws, their society, crafts, let us know more profusely the Lord of Sipán, The Mochica Culture.

Origins of the Mochica culture

The Mochica culture, also known as Moche, It begins in the 1st century AD and ends in the 7th century AD. constituting an organized and complex society, but this society was going to experience a series of changes around the year 550 AD, as a result of severe droughts. Droughts that even persisted for 32 years, surely as a result of the “Niño” phenomenonthis situation had serious consequences such as the abandonment of the valleys where this culture had developed, moving towards inland areas, where its period of extinction gradually began.

It was located in the desert strip of the north coast of Peru, a narrow and hard stage, since it is there where the remains of their palaces, temples and water constructions have been found and of course their cemeteries, an evident example of their beliefs, crafts and society.

It is considered a culture with a complex organization and advanced technology, since they had irrigation systems. While on the other side of the world, in Europe, the Roman Empire reached its maximum splendor, the Mochicas spread their knowledge and their religion. This stage of Peru, which is known as regionalization.

Location of the Mochica culture

The Moche culture is born from the fusion of the Cupisnique, Salinar, Vicús and Virú culturesthis fusion was able to unite all the cultural, artistic and social elements to create an autonomous and sufficient society, the technological and ideological contributions, made this culture the most advanced in the entire Andean and Northeast region.

The Mochicas lived in the Mochica valley, between the Nepeña valley, located to the south, and the Piura valley in the north, settling in the valleys included in the entire strip. Valleys such as La Leche, Lambayeque, Jequetepeque, Chicama, Moche, Virú, Chao, Santa and Nepeña, all conveniently watered by the rivers that give the valley its name.

Northern Mochicas and Southern Mochicas

The Moche culture is named after the discoveries made in the Moche Valley, but historically it was known as Protochimú or Early Chimú. The language with which they communicated was Muchik, and as a derivation of this term, the word appears Moche which is the other way to get to know this culture.

The Mochicas were divided, simply for geographical reasons, between the North Coast and South Coastthe reason is Paijan desertwhich managed not only to divide them geographically, but also influenced cultural manifestations, where we can see notable differences between Northern Mochicas and Southern Mochicas. Among them the tombs of the Mochicas del Norte, where the tomb of the Lord of Sipán was found, were rich.

Between the Mochicas of the North and the Mochicas of the South, differences can be seen in every way. We can find differences in:

  • The tombs : The burials of the Mochicas of the North, richer in metals, while the Mochicas of the South, were the ones that created most of the “Huacos Portraits”, which are worked in clay whose realism is spectacular, they represent faces with moods , gestures, expressions, sadness, seriousness, joy, loneliness, practices, rituals, etc.
  • The ceramic: In the pottery of the Northern Mochicas, the dominant colors are orange and cream, with motifs in red and even purple. The ceramics of the south only used one color for the background, white or cream, and their decorations in red or ocher.
  • The architecture: The northern constructions, like the constructions of the southern cultures, had the pyramids as their main construction, the difference was the way of accessing them, the northern ones with ramps, while in the southern ones no remains of their existence have been found. .

The pyramids are still being cleaned and studied, but there is no doubt that they were impressive constructions, visible from very remote places.

What characterizes the Mochica Culture?

The most important people in the Moche culture were the priests and the warriors. They were highly honored and respected. Artists and artisans were the next most important people to the Moche, then farmers and fishermen. Finally, the culture considered servants, slaves, and beggars to be the lowest people.

Moche burials have also been found, and the type of burial depends on the position that the dead had occupied in life. In each burial there is some type of trousseau or objects belonging to the deceased. Sometimes a human sacrifice was included, and the richer the dead, the more impressive the tomb. The most elaborate tombs belong to people who are likely to be priests or warriors, judging by the objects found buried with them.

The Moche were an agricultural society, but due to the climate, they used a system of canals and aqueducts to transport water to their farms. The Moche civilization was probably not a large empire, like the Incas or Aztecs, but rather a group of smaller city-states, ruled by priests, that were still part of the same larger culture. The Moche also used technologies that allowed them to work with copper, something that is part of their weapons, tools and jewelry. They also used gold, silver, and wonderful fabrics.

Where did the Mochica Culture originate?

The capital, known simply as Moche and which gives its name to the civilization that founded it, lies at the foot of the Cerro Blanco mountain and once covered an area of ​​300 hectares. In addition to urban housing, plazas, warehouses, and workshop buildings, it also has impressive monuments including two massive adobe pyramidal mounds. These monumental structures, in their original state, show typical features of Moche architecture: multiple levels, access ramps, and sloping roofs.

The largest ‘pyramid’ is the Huaca del Sol, which has four levels and is today 40 meters high. It was originally over 50 m high, covered an area of ​​340 x 160 m, and was built from over 140 million bricks, each stamped with the maker’s mark. A ramp on the north side gives access to the summit, which is a cross-shaped platform. The smallest structure, known as Huaca de la Luna, is 500 meters away and was built with some 50 million adobes. It has three levels and is decorated with friezes showing Moche mythology and rituals. The entire structure was once enclosed within a high adobe wall. Both pyramids were built around 450 AD. C., they were originally brightly colored in red, white, yellow, and black, and were used as an imposing setting for rituals and ceremonies. Later, Spanish conquistadors diverted the Moche River to tear down the Huaca del Sol and loot the tombs within, suggesting that the Moche also used the pyramid for generations as a mausoleum for important people.

When was the Mochica Culture discovered?

In 1987, archaeologists excavated a site called Huaca Rajada, near the town of Sipán in the Lambayeque Valley, and discovered the elaborate, jewel-filled tomb of a Moche warrior-priest. Several more burial chambers containing the remains of Moche royalty were soon excavated, all dating to around the year 300. DC In 1997 excavations in Dos Cabezas, a site inhabited from about 150 to 500 DC , revealed the first of three tombs containing the remains of three members of the Moche elite. Each tomb was adjacent to a small compartment containing a miniature representation of the tomb’s contents, complete with a copper figure representing the dead man. Skeletal remains indicated that each of the men was 8 to 12 inches taller than the average Moche adult male. These finds enriched the understanding of Moche society, religion, and culture. Dozens of other Moche pyramidal platform sites exist in the coastal valleys of northern Peru, most of them looted to some degree.

How was the pottery of the Mochica Culture?

Most of what is known today about how the Moche lived is found in the pottery they left behind. This pottery was used to portray all aspects of Moche life, from the religious to the everyday. These pieces and murals can also tell us about their culture.

Vessels with Mochica decoration were made with molds and, despite their diversity, reveal standardized forms and decoration. Nine basic forms are reported in the literature. Bottles with stirrup spouts and flared bowls are the preferred supports on which artists capture complex and figurative pictorial scenes. Other forms are necked and neckless jars, ladles, bowls, necked bowls, goblets, and crucibles.

Moche ceramic art represents an infinite variety of themes. Common zoomorphic figures include camelids, deer, felines, foxes, rodents, monkeys, bats, sea lions, as well as a wide range of birds, fish, shells, arachnids, and reptiles. These animals are realistically depicted, hybridized or anthropomorphized. Corn, squash, tubers, and beans are common among a great diversity of plants. Among the human and anthropomorphic figures, rulers, warriors, prisoners, priests, healers, and fanged deities are recognizable, as well as deformed and skeletal individuals. Historical figures are also represented on realistic vessels with three-dimensional portraits. While animals are often anthropomorphized or hybridized, humans often have supernatural attributes.

All of these figures are depicted alone or engaging in a variety of actions in various narrative scenes. Although the possibilities of creating different scenes from all the extant Moche figures are almost limitless, major trends in narrative art can be recognized and representations are limited to a small number of recurring and interrelated themes. For example, deer and seal hunting, sacrificial ceremonies, warriors in battle or moving in processions, and messengers running in single file are themes…