Visual Archaeology Interpretation



The Sacrifice Ceremony, Painting by Christiane Clados

The Moche culture, which flourished on the north coast of Peru between 100 B.C. and A.D. 700, produced one of the most remarkable art styles of Pre-Columbian America. Although the Moche people had no writing system, they left a vivid artistic record of their activities and their environment. Their art illustrates their clothing, architecture, implements, super-natural beings, and a multitude of activities such as warfare, ceremony, and hunting. Although Moche art gives the impression of having an almost infinite variety of subject matter, analysis of a large sample of it has suggested that it is limited to the representation of a small number of specific events, or activities, which are referred to as themes. (Donnan 2004)

In the centers and cities build of unbaked bricks lived ten thousands of people: Artisans, warriors, priests, nobles and the sovereigns. As living gods the Moche sovereigns resided in palaces on high platforms, out of the crowd’s view. In richly decorated courts and temples were stages for feasts and ceremonies including human sacrifice. The people killed were mostly warriors captured in battle. On other occasions, Moche worshipers honored their gods with dancing, waterlily games, and the presentation of valuable offerings. One of the most important rituals was the Sacrifice Ceremony, which the Moche often depicted in their vase paintings (Donnan 1978).

Sacrifice Ceremony Rollout on Moche Pottery
Christopher Donnan 1978


Internet Links

Moche Revealed: The Digger

Moche Burials Uncovered National Geographic

Peruvian Temple of Doom

The Moche: Lesson Plan (PDF File)



The Moche: Life and Death on the Peruvian North Coast


























Copyright ©2004 Linda Kreft