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1500-year-old construction at Limon archaeological site, Peru

Important Moche Ceremonial Rooms Discovered in Peru

A Peruvian archaeological mission has discovered a pre-Hispanic Mochica ceremonial banquet hall and another room possibly used for political announcements. The discovery took place at the ruins of the Limon archaeological complex in a northern region of Peru.

Important Find Could Shed Light on Moche’s Political Life

Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered two chambers that were used for political announcements and intricate banquets on the country’s desert coast almost 1,500 years ago. Similar buildings in the past have only been noticed in illustrations of the ancient Moche people, who dominated the broad area of the coastal desert from 100 to 700 AD. “These scenes had been depicted in the iconography of the Moche world but we had never been lucky enough to physically find where they took place,” lead archaeologist Walter Alva said via Daily Mail . And added, “It's a very important finding.”

Platforms and podiums have been unearthed at the Huaca Limon site.

Platforms and podiums have been unearthed at the Huaca Limon site. (Image: Andina)

Experts hope that the new discovery will offer some clues to understanding the Moche's political life before the society's unexpected decline.  Many historians suggest that a catastrophic climate event, such as the El Nino phenomena that still triggers damaging flooding in northern Peru, may have been the cause of the sudden collapse of the society.

The rooms are thought to be where political and social events and announcements took place.

The rooms are thought to be where political and social events and announcements took place. (Image: Andina)

The Forgotten Moche Civilization

The Moche civilization, also known as the Mochica, flourished along the northern coast and valleys of ancient Peru, most notably in the Chicama and Trujillo Valleys, between 100 and 700 AD. According to Encyclopedia Britannica , Moche society was agriculturally based, with an important level of investment in the construction of a network of irrigation canals for the diversion of river water to supply their crops. Their culture was sophisticated and their art expressed their lifestyle, with detailed scenes of hunting, fishing, fighting, sacrifice, sexual encounters and elaborate ceremonies. The Moche are best known today for their complicated painted ceramics, gold work, monumental constructions (huacas) and irrigation systems that helped them to grow crops in desert valleys.

A pair of ear ornaments from Peru (Moche), ca. AD 200-600 Gold; shell; stome (turquoise or malachite) The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California.

A pair of ear ornaments from Peru (Moche), ca. AD 200-600 Gold; shell; stome (turquoise or malachite) The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. ( CC0)

Until the 1980s the culture’s most remarkable remains were those of Moche itself, near Trujillo in the Moche River valley. Two giant structures, known as the Temple of the Sun (Huaca del Sol) and the Temple of the Moon (Huaca de la Luna), hegemonize the site. Over the surrounding ground, for several hundred meters in all directions, there is much evidence of a dense occupation, indicating that Moche was not only a political and ceremonial center but also a city.

In 1987 archaeologists excavated a site called Huaca Rajada , near the village of Sipán in the Lambayeque valley, and unearthed the complex, jewelry-filled tomb of a Moche warrior-priest. Many more burial chambers including the remains of Moche royalty were soon excavated, all dating from about 300 AD. In 1997 excavations at Dos Cabezas, a site inhabited from roughly 150 to 500 AD, revealed the first of three tombs containing the remains of three Moche elite. Each tomb was adjacent to a small compartment containing a miniature representation of the contents of the tomb, complete with a copper figure representing the dead man. The 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 pyramid-platform sites exist in the coastal valleys of northern Peru, most of them looted to some degree.

Tomb of the Lord of Sipan, circa 300AD.

Tomb of the Lord of Sipan, circa 300AD. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Rooms Used by Elite Members Only (Including Several Women)

Back to the recent discovery, one room contains two thrones where a dominant ruler and his guest most likely had elaborate feasts. The other room features a circular podium, which was probably used for making political announcements. Archaeologists are confident that the activities taking place in the chambers were very important, due to the fact that they had been featured repeatedly on Moche ceramics. Furthermore, researchers suggest that the rooms were used only by elite members of the local society, while paintings of fish and sea lions can be seen on the walls. Interestingly, women are thought to have held very significant political and religious positions in Moche society.

Poduim for thought to be for making political announcements.

Poduim for thought to be for making political announcements. (Image: Andina)

One such powerful female was the “Lady of Cao.” As previously reported in Ancient Origins , the Lady of Cao was an eminent figure in the Northern Peru’s Moche culture, who probably died from either pregnancy or childbirth complications while she was only in her 20s. She is believed to have been a priestess or a political leader, due to the fact that her heavily tattooed body was buried with various artifacts, including weapons like clubs and spears. The tattoos, which are still visible, were preserved by the dry climate in which the Lady of Cao was buried, while also were found the remains of a second young woman, possibly a human sacrifice. On July 2017, scientists in Peru recreated her face with the use of 3D printing.

Top image: 1500-year-old construction at Limon archaeological site, Peru. Source: Agencia Andina

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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