Moche Chronology and Subsistence Term Paper

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Moche Subsistence

Timeline from Pozorski and Pozorski (1979)


Chronology of Moche ceramic portraits are divided into categories based on form and decoration. This designation was first proposed by Rafael Larco Hoyle in 1948 due to the changes in the stirrup spout bottle. These were being produced as early as 1500 B.C. In Peru, even before the Moche civilization began. Larco divides the Moche period into five phases: Phase I (50-100AD30); Phase II (100-200 AD); Phase III (200-450 AD); Phase IV forms (450-550 AD) and Phase V (550-800 AD)

Phase I have upper spouts that are short and thick and with a pronounced lip at the rim. In Phase II, this short and thick spout remains, but the lip becomes smaller. In Phase III, the upper spout frequently has a pronounced flaring contour. In Phase IV, the upper spout is taller than previous ones, the sides are parallel and the upper portion of the lip is beveled. In the last phase, the upper spout narrows toward the top but is similar in height to the upper spouts in Phases I, II and III. Similar to Phase IV, the upper spout is beveled on the inside near the lip (Donnan 2004:13-17).

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Although Larco Hoyle's method is the most widely accepted for defining the periods of Moche culture, there are those who disagree with its credibility. For example, Garth Bawden (1996:206) claims that although the dates for these phases become more reliable after about 600 a.D., they are still insufficient for chronological purposes. He argues that even though careful attention is paid to differences "between" phases, not enough attention is given to differences "within" phases. Bawden finds a considerable overlap within the styles, which contrasts with the clear divisions that Hoyle's typology would seem to suggest. Also, within each phase there are geographical variations for which Hoyle does not account. If the Moche who lived in the north had different settlement patterns from those in the south, it appears likely that they may also have varying styles and methods in production of pottery.

Term Paper on Moche Chronology and Subsistence Assignment

The development of irrigation agriculture on the north coast between 2000 and 1500 B.C. was one of the most essential events in prehistoric Peru. Before this time, coastal residents mainly subsisted on marine foods such as shellfish and fish along with floodwater horticulture. Although irrigation altered this significantly, it did not occur as quickly as earlier believed. The Moche Valley sites of Gramalote and Caballo Muerto showed a gradual transition from seashore to inland subsistence. At first Baballo Muerto depended heavily on the coastal resources for animal protein and Gramalote relied on the inland settlement for agricultural output. With time, the domestication of camelid (llamas) replaced shellfish for animal protein and the coastal settlement was no longer needed (Pozorski and Pozorski 1979:14).

The plant and animal species from Gramalote and the animal species from Caballo Muerto included shell valves and fruit stems or seeds. The people of Gramalote were the first to dig for the deep burrowing clams. Archaeologists have found many large mussels and large clam species and gastropods that had been bashed open consistently to extract the meat. They were probably cracked and eaten while still fresh and raw. At Gramalote, inhabitants received less than 10% of their total amount of meat protein from fish. Shark was a major food item for protein. Rays, guitarfish, and three members of the croaker family were also eaten. It is believed that fishing was done with simple small-mesh haul seines and large mesh gill nets that were laid out in the shallow waters (Pozorski and Pozorski 1979).

In the Gramalote ruins a selection of bird bones was found, with cormorants being the most prevalent. Also found were the bones from one penguin and several gulls. Because of the large amount of cormorant bones, archaeologists believe that these birds were abundant and nested in the area. The sea lion was the only mammal of dietary significance; it represented about 7% of their meat diet (Pozorski and Pozorski 1979).

Cultivating plants in the Gramalote area was impossible, because it was too far from the Moche River and the land was not conducive to irrigation. In addition, the elevation would make availability to ground water difficult. The plants eaten at Gramalote, therefore, were grown at other locations in the valley where agriculture was practiced. There are many different types of plants found in the Gramalote excavations, such as cotton, gourds, squash, common bean, peppers, a plum-like fruit called lzicuma, and avocados. Corn was very scarce, with only a couple of ears and husks found (Pozorski and Pozorski 1979).

In the time period of the Caballo Muerto, shellfish were also collected as at Gramolite, Cotton Preceramic and Padre Aban. Shellfish debris is found in the ruins at Huanchaco Bay. In addition, Moche inhabitants ate a large number of land snails that were located on rocks and shrubs in areas were there was little vegetation. These snails may not have provided a great deal of meat, but were abundant in the Caballo Muerto sites. Not many birds or fish remains are found.

Herederos material shows that nearly 20% of the total meat volume came from deer, which fed on and were protected by the dense plants in the area. However, later mounds no longer included deer. This suggests that either the animals were hunted to extinction or displaced by agriculture. One of the camelids, most likely the domesticated llama, provided a smaller amount of meat than the deer. Wing (1977: 837) suggests that these camelids may have been domesticated as early as 4400 to 3150 B.C.; by 1000 B.C. they were very prevalent (Pozorski and Pozorski 1979).

The data suggests that the camelids found at Caballo Muerto were most likely originally introduced into the Moche Valley from the sierra in domesticated form. The llama were also used for wool, beasts of burden and ceremonies. They are found on many of the ceramics. Some of the bones even show scraping evidence of being butchered. The remains of this animal were also found in Huaca Cordada, Huaca de los Reyes, Huaca la Cruz and Huaca Guavalito. Unlike the deer, the llamas did not die out and continued as a valuable meat source. Dogs were an insignificant food source. Similar to Gramalote, the sea lion was the only marine mammal; bones were only found in the Huaca Cortada and Huaca la Cruz sites. This showed that there was still some need for sea foods (Pozorski and Pozorski 1979).

The earliest data on North Coastal camelids come from the stratified deposits at an Early Horizon site in the middle of a subtropical spiny forest of the Leche Valley (Tosi 1960), about 50 km inland from the Pacific Coast (Shimada et al. 1982). This includes three radiocarbon dates in the Early Horizon occupation ca. 1300-1200 to 700-600 B.C.

With camelids, dogs, guinea pigs, lizards, birds, and rodents. Comparative data are available for the Moche Valley.

Evidence for plant cultivation at Caballo Muerto is circumstantial, although it is assumed that agricultural skills were well developed by this time because of the abundant finds for Gramalote. The location of the land in a steep area where only short canals are needed for irrigation lends support to this argument. Although no canals are found from the time of the Caballa Muerto, two modern ones, the Moro and the Vichansao, irrigate land from the valley neck.

By looking at data from both the Initial Period and Early Horizon times, subsistence at Gramalote can be characterized as a marine-oriented site with the systematic procurement of shellfish and several food plants. Caballo Muerto stands alone as an inland mound group, which included both marine and inland animal protein and increasingly efficient and productive irrigation agricultural systems for plant food. Together, these sites are two parts of an economic unit: one with a coastal marine focus and the other with an inland agricultural focus. It is believed that the move inland to Caballo Muerto represented a change in subsistence priorities from marine life over to irrigation and agriculture along with a decreasing reliance on sea foods. At Gramalote, cotton was used for nets and cords and gourd plants for containers and floats. Since plant food was not necessary, because of the abundant marine life, these plants were essential for procurement purposes only. The emphasis was not on plants as a food item.

By the time of the Initial Period, it is believed that there were areas of coastal desert opened to agriculture year-round through irrigation, with the oversight and maintenance of these systems required for relocation to canals and irrigated fields. It is believed that there was a growing reliance on cultivated plants, because even at Gramolte it is possible to see early cultivation changes. Further, the increase in plant-seed size when Cotton Preceramic and Initial Period samples are compared may be correlated with certain features of irrigation agriculture. In addition, a comparison of samples for the two areas of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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