Moche Paleoindians the First Human Settlers Crossed Term Paper

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Moche Paleoindians

The first human settlers crossed from the Old to New World approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. In the hundreds of generations following, they proceeded over the Isthmus of Panama and down to the continent of what is now South America. Following what they had learned from their ancestors in the north, they became skilled in hunting and gathering the rich and diverse lands. Although the actual time they arrived in South America remains open for debate, it is known that the Paleoindians, as they are called by anthropologists, lived as far south as Monte Verde in Chile around 13,000 years ago. This was about 5,500 kilometers south of the isthmus. Another 2,000 years later, archaeological remains place them at the southernmost tip of the continent.

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The Paleoindians provide an excellent example of adaptation. For thousands of years, they survived in all types of environments, from the bitterly cold straits and extensive forests of the south to the grassy plains of today's Argentina, to the dry and hot lands of Brazil, to the green and wet areas of the rain forest, and the heights of the Andes Mountains soaring nearly 8,000 km. This type of adaptation, that anthropologist Steward called "levels of sociocultural integration," (1955:5), was indicative of what was seen in other areas of the pre-industrial world: First were the groups of migratory hunter gatherers, continuing to leverage the eclectic land as did their Paleoindian ancestors. Second were the stationary tribal villages, who survived on small-scale agriculture or horticulture. Third, were the complex sociopolitical chiefdoms, which relied on the extensive agricultural systems, and fourth were the pre-industrial societies that had a sophisticated agricultural system with a food-producing irrigation agriculture (Wilson 1999: iii).

Term Paper on Moche Paleoindians the First Human Settlers Crossed Assignment

The Moche inhabited an arid coastal plain, bordered on the east by the Andean cordillera and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Most of their settlements were located in a series of valleys whose rivers cut across the coastal plain, carrying water from the mountains to the sea. Archaeologists have traced the human occupation of this area from the end of the Pleistocene, around 10,000 years ago, through the development of settled village farming communities and the subsequent rise and fall of civilizations that took place prior to the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century.

The Moche people were named after the river that flows into the ocean just south of Trujillo. They prospered on the dry deserts of the Northern Coast of Peru between 200 BC and AD 700, originating with the decline of the Cupisnique period at the time of Christ. It is not believed that the Moche conquered the Cupisnique, but slowly took the land over as they expanded their complex social developments. The word Mochica is another name used for these people, which refers to a dialect spoken in the Trujillo area during conquest, although not necessarily spoken by the Moche people. However, this term is rarely used. The area inhabited by the Moche was not large, at maximum only consisting of valleys from Piura to Huarmey, a distance of approximately 550 kilometers from north to south. East-to-west coordinates were even smaller Moche settlements thus far have only been found between the ocean and the point where the valley floodplains narrow when entering the canyons and lead up to the Andean mountain range -- normally a distance of 50 to 80 kilometers (Donnan 2004: 4).

The culture, according to archaeological evidence, indicates that the Moche society was composed of strata consisting of warrior-priest rulers, weavers, metalsmiths, potters and fishermen, slaves and beggars. Those living closest to these large pyramids and ceremonial temples in the urban areas were deemed the culture's most important people, especially the priests and warriors who were revered and obeyed. Because of their status, these individuals are represented most in ceramics, while being carried in litters in their especially refined jewelry and clothing. The artwork also depicts how individuals who do not obey these leaders' authority are punished with mutilation and even death.

According to Donnan (2004:1), who has conducted extensive archaeological work in the northern coastal region of what is now Peru, hundreds of years before the origination of the Moche civilization, their location was occupied by highly stratified societies that built massive architecture and developed highly complex weaving, ceramics and metallurgy. The Moche took the knowledge they acquired in the sophisticated arts, technology, and social organization from these previous people and further developed them to establish their own specialized culture.

The farmers utilized sophisticated irrigation systems that altered the arid desert lands into abundant farmland. They used what they learned to channel the rivers into a complex system of canals. This allowed them to significantly extend their cultivated lands and grow plentiful agriculture, including corn, beans, guava, avocados, squash, chili peppers, and peanuts. In addition, from the Pacific Ocean and area rivers, marshes, and lagoons, they caught tremendous amounts of fish and shell fish. Their meat consisted of llamas, guinea pigs, and ducks as well as smaller birds, which they occasionally found through hunting and gathering.

With such an abundant and wholesome diet, the Moche were able to retain a crowded, highly stratified population and to assign sizeable numbers of workers to the building and maintenance of irrigation canal systems, pyramids, palaces and temples.

In addition, the Moche kept up trade relationships with people living far beyond their territorial borders. For example, they found lapis lazuli hundreds of kilometers to the south, in present-day Chile and Spondylus shells from hundreds of kilometers to the north, in what is now Ecuador.

Although the Moche most likely did not have markets or money, they definitely practiced the redistribution system indicative of what was reported when Europeans first made contact. Subjects gave their food and commodities to the local lords, which they in turn redistributed to lesser ranking nobles. As a result, large amounts of food, raw materials, and crafts were regularly collected and effectively redistributed. The surplus that was left over after redistribution provided full-time jobs for a corps of full-time artisans who created objects for the elite.

The lords used many of these items to demonstrate their power and wealth, and the lesser nobility to maintain social and political allegiances. By supporting skilled craft specialists in this manner, there was an ideal environment for enhancing artistic excellence and the innovation of sophisticated technology. Due to the Moche society's advanced state in ceramics, textiles and metalwork and architectural skills with huge structures, such as pyramids, there was enough additional time for highly developed art and organized religion.

According to iconography and major archaeological finds in the past two decades, it is becoming clearer that the Moche society revolved around human sacrifice. In 1987, Water Alva's discovery of the Sipan tombs in Lambayeque Valley (Alva and Donnan 1993) actually included complex burial chambers for some of the highest-ranking individuals in Moche society and their corresponding sacrifice ceremony. The individual in Tomb 1 at Sipan, for instance, was one of the main characters in the ceremony and Tomb 2 was the resting place for his counterpart, or a figure identified as the Bird Priest.

Similarly, Arsenault (1994: 217) believes that a woman buried at he Huaca de la Cruz in the Viru Valley, actually excavated as early as the 1940s by the Viru Valley Project, is also connected to the sacrifice ceremony. A wooden staff found next to this female has a similarity to a staff in a drawing of the sacrifice ceremony, which is drawing blood from the captive.

It is also believed that human sacrifice was part of an elaborate funerary ritual. In 1995 at the site of Huaca de la Luna, archaeologists found the largest example of human sacrifice yet (Bourget: 1998). Over 70 individuals had been sacrificed during five or more separate rituals. Two of these sacrifices appear to be linked to El Nino, the weather pattern that often times results in major downpours, flooding, famine and disease, because they were embedded in clay. After each sacrificial ritual, ritual leaders left the victims' remains in the central plaza, so they were exposed to the elements as well as to the flies who deposited eggs in their flesh.

Such finds have allowed the archaeologists to better define what took place in the sacrifice ceremonies. Earlier Alva and Donnan, for example, (1993: 141) did not know whether the ceremony was performed by Moche priests or depicted being done by deities in a mythical setting. The only information on the ceremony was from artistic depictions. Say the archaeologists: "The anthropomorphized bird and animal figures certainly seemed mythical, but perhaps these were artistic means to imply the supernatural aspects of real people who were enacting prescribed roles." Not until the excavation of the Sipan Tomb 1 was there enough evidence that this ceremony actually occurred.

Further, two Moche ceramic goblets from museums were tested through immunological analysis and tested for ten animal antisera and human blood. The latter proved to be the only positive result (Bourget and Newman… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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