A study published in the August/October issue of CurrentAnthropology, reports on new archaeological evidence regarding theidentities of human sacrifice victims of the Moche society of Peru.
The Moche was a complex society whose influence extended over mostof the North coast of Peru between AD 200 and 650. They are widelyknown for their life-like mold-made ceramics, beautiful metallurgy, mudbrick pyramids, and iconographic depictions of one-on-one combatbetween Moche warriors. In recent years archaeologists had uncoveredevidence of the sacrifice of adult males at a number of Moche pyramids.What has remained unclear until now is who these sacrificial victimswere. Largely due to the nature of iconographic depictions of Mochecombat most scholars have speculated that the sacrifices were largelyrituals among local Moche elites, the primary goal of which was toprovide human victims for sacrificial ceremonies.
However, this newly published study by Richard Sutter and Rosa Cortezcompares genetically influenced tooth cusp and root traits for theMoche sacrificial victims from a pyramid at the Moche capital withthose of other North Coast populations. The findings of thisarchaeological comparison indicate that the sacrificial victims werenot local Moche elite. Instead they were likely warriors captured fromnearby valleys. When this result is considered in light of otherarchaeological and skeletal lines of evidence it suggests that theMoche populations in each valley were characterized by territorialconflict and competition with one another.
Sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research,Current Anthropology is a transnational journal devoted to research onhumankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarshipon human cultures and on the human and other primate species.Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in awide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physicalanthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology andprehistory, folklore, and linguistics. For more information, please seeour website: www.journals.uchicago.edu/CA
"The Origins and Role of the Moche (AD 1-750) Human SacrificialVictims: A Bio-Archaeological Perspective." Richard Sutter and RosaCortez. Current Anthropology 46:4.
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