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The Art and Archaeology in the Moche

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The Art and Archaeology in the Moche: An Ancient Andean Society of the Peruvian North Coast. Edited by Steve Bourget and Kimberly L. Jones. (University of Texas Press, Austin: 2008. Pg. 326. 14 Color and 334 B&W Photos, Line Drawings.) ISBN: 978-0-292-71867-8.

Reviewed by Herbert White - March 2, 2009

The Moche were a pre-Columbian society who lived along the Peruvian North Coast from about 100-800 C.E. Edited by Steve Bourget and Kimberley L. Jones, The Art and Archaeology in the Moche is a collection of articles on the Moche, representing our current knowledge of this once vibrant society. Combined, these articles serve to not only present an in-depth overview of Moche culture and history, but they also illustrate current researching being conducted on the Moche.

In all, fifteen articles are included in this collection and they were written by an outstanding group of scholars specializing in a variety of fields including archaeology, iconography, forensics, history, and related fields. No only do these articles deal with aspects of daily life, religion, and culture, but they also examine the development of the Moche as a society, and its failure, as well as the role that El Niño (Southern Oscillation) events played in Moche history. Current Moche archaeological sites, such as those at Dos Cabezas, Sipán, and Huacas de Moche are also examined in detail, as well as current methodologies being used to study the Moche. The articles in this volume include:
  1. Iconography Meets Archaeology, by Elizabeth P. Benson.

  2. Sacrifices and Ceremonial Calendars in Societies of the Central Andes: A Reconsideration, by Anne Marie Hocquenghem.

  3. Ulluchu: An Elusive Fruit, by Donna McClelland.

  4. Moche Masking Traditions, by Christopher B. Donnan.

  5. Convergent Catastrophe and the Demise of Dos Cabezas: Environmental Change and Regime Change in Ancient Peru, by Michael E. Moseley, Christopher B. Donnan, and David K. Keefer.

  6. Forensic Iconography: The Case of the Moche Giants, by Alana Cordy-Collins and Charles F. Merbs.

  7. Moche Forms for Shaping Sheet Metal, by Christopher B. Donnan, David A. Scott, and Todd Bracken.

  8. Moche Art Style in the Santa Valley: Between being "à la Mode" and Developing a Provincial Identity, by Claude Chapdelaine.

  9. The Priests of the Bicephalus Arc: Tombs and Effigies Found in Huaca de la Luna and Their Relation to Moche Rituals, by Santiago Uceda.

  10. The Moche People: Genetic Perspective on Their Sociopolitical Composition and Organization, by Izumi Shimada, Ken-ichi Shinoda, Walter Alva, Steve Bourget, Claude Chapdelaine, and Santiago Uceda.

  11. Communality and Diversity in Moche Human Sacrifice, by John W. Verano.

  12. Art and Moche Martial Arts, by Jeffrey Quilter.

  13. Moche Textile Production on the Peruvian North Coast: A Contextual Analysis, by Jean-François Millaire.

  14. Spiders and Spider Decapitators in Moche Iconography: Identification from the Contexts of Sipán, Antecedents and Symbolism, by Néstor Ignacio Alva Meneses.

  15. The Third Man: Identity and Rulership in Moche Archaeology and Visual Culture, by Steve Bourget.
Well illustrated, up-to-date, and extremely readable yet still academically rigorous, these articles will serve as an introduction to Moche society and culture, for those unfamiliar with this society. Scholars who are intimately acquainted with the Moche will find that this book will serve as a reference guide to current researching being conducted on the Moche and their cultural remains, as well as representing a synthesis of our current knowledge about the Moche. The text can also be used in basically any university level courses dealing with pre-Columbian societies and history, and in graduate courses in a variety of academic arenas including archaeology, ethnohistory, art history, ethnography, and iconography, to name just a few. Readers interested in pursuing their study of the Moche in greater detail will find the bibliographies that accompany each article to be invaluable. In additional the readability of the text makes this an ideal book for public libraries and will be of great interest to general readers with an interest in Moche society.

Related Reviews:

Sex, Death, and Sacrifice in Moche Religion and Visual Culture, by Steve Bourget.
An in-depth analysis of Moche iconography as seen through depictions of everyday life, death, and ritual sacrifice as depicted in Moche pottery and other visual mediums.

Palaces and Power in the Americas: From Peru to the Northwest Coast, edited by Jessica Joyce Christie and Patricia Joan Sarro.
Twelve essays that detail the archaeological, historical, and cultural relevance of various palaces found throughout the ancient Americas.

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