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Peru Moche Civilisation

Ancient Mural in Peru Reveals Intriguing Insights into Mysterious Moche Civilisation

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In an ancient site known as Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) located in an unforgiving desert landscape in northern Peru, the people of the Moche civilisation painted and sculpted elaborate murals on the walls of temples and inside pyramids, passing on the story of their lives, beliefs and culture. Now, the murals have been captured in a super high resolution composite photograph allowing scientists, researchers and anyone interested to study the mural in minute detail.

The Moche was a mysterious civilization who ruled the northern coast of Peru approximately two thousand years ago. They built huge pyramids made of millions of mud bricks and created an extensive network of aqueducts which enabled them to irrigate crops in their dry desert location. They were also pioneers of metal working techniques like gilding and soldering, which enabled them to created extraordinarily intricate jewellery and artefacts.

Little was known about the Moche civilization because they left no written texts to help explain their beliefs and customs. However, the discovery of detailed paintings and murals on pottery work and on temple walls has helped to provide insights into their culture and beliefs.

The Huaca de la Luna mural covers 200 square feet and portrays vivid scenes of human sacrifice, war and violence, as well as more mundane scenes such as people capturing birds with nets, fishing from a reed boat still used locally today, and even smelting gold. The mural also includes many animals – fish and crayfish, as well as snakes, scorpions, monkeys, foxes, buzzards, an unidentified feline, and dogs that appear to be barking.

Now one of the intricate murals has been photographed in amazing detail by Fabio Amador, a senior program officer in National Geographic’s department of research and conservation.  It has been captured using gigapixel photography, a panorama made of billions of pixels that capture every element in sharp detail, allowing anyone with a computer to zoom in for close-up views of individual figures, which you can view here.

The gigapixel photograph facilitates research by enabling experts to study the mural in-depth from anywhere in the world, and allows the public to admire and appreciate the fascinating artwork of this ancient culture.

"We're still not sure of the significance of the complex themes," says archaeologist Santiago Uceda of Peru's Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, "but our working hypothesis is that they're intimately related to the Moche myths that gave rise to the ceremonies and rituals carried out in that sacred space."

By April Holloway

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