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Jorge Gamboa Velásquez

This paper assesses a set of ideological practices related to the growth and abandonment of ceremonial and administrative
buildings from the southern Moche area of the north coast of Peru. The archaeological record at Huacas de Moche, El
Brujo, and Guadalupito, three of the main settlements in the region, includes evidence for the deposition and manipulation
of animal and human bodies, burning, and the alteration of wall iconography. These activities took place in the period
between A.D. 300–750, and were related to either the construction and renovation of structures or the abandonment of mon-
umental built spaces. The analysis of this data contributes to a better understanding of Moche ritual dedicatory behavior,
contextualizing it in a broader perspective on place making and the marking of time in precolumbian South America.

El presente artículo evalúa datos procedentes de Huacas de Moche, El Brujo y Guadalupito, tres asentamientos Moche inves-
tigados intensivamente en las últimas décadas. Este análisis revela una serie de procedimientos de celebración del ciclo exis-
tencial de los espacios religiosos y de interacción política de la costa norte peruana entre los años 300–750 d.C. Los contextos
examinados muestran la importancia que el estudio de las consagraciones arquitectónicas adquiere en la investigación de la
conducta ceremonial Moche, permitiendo incorporar un rico conjunto de nuevas evidencias al debate sobre el significado de
la dedicación y terminación de arquitectura pública en América precolombina.

ne of the most conspicuous traditional ceremonial events associated with the renovation
Andean ceremonies in modern times is of public architecture is relatively frequent in
the pagapu, the offering to the land that the archaeological record. The earliest examples
seeks to propitiate supernatural forces for house- date to the Late Archaic (3000–1600 B.C.) and
hold and community prosperity, or for the suc- Formative (1600–200 B.C.) periods. Sites such
cess of construction projects and journeys (Del- as Aspero, Punkuri, San Juanito, and Chavín de
gado 1989; Flores Ochoa 1977; Tomoeda Huantar show dedicatory practices carried out
2000:354).1 In relation to public and residential by placing stone mortars and human burials in
architecture, the act of celebrating the beginning alignment with the central axes of the main build-
or end of a construction project appears to be ings (Chapdelaine and Pimentel 2008; Feldman
universal, being inherent in the creation of so- 1985; MAAUNMSM 2005). For later Andean
cially significant spaces. In the Andes, pre- precolumbian periods, there exists clear evidence
columbian burial practices and the renovation of the intentional placement of artifacts, human
of public spaces identified in the archaeological bodies, and other materials during the ritual ded-
record constitute a rich source of data for ob- ication and eventual termination of public spaces.
serving the origins of ritual dedication at the Recent excavations at the Wari site of Pikillacta
foundation and abandonment of buildings. While (Arriola and Tesar 2011) and the Inca site of
an overview of all of the data on consecratory Inkapirka Hamanan (Meddens et al. 2010) reveal
behavior in the region is beyond the scope of the selection, alteration, and placement of special
this work, it will suffice to note that evidence of materials in front of doorways and within ushnu

Jorge Gamboa Velásquez 䡲 Proyecto Arqueológico Pañamarca-Área Monumental and Escuela de Arqueología, Facultad
de Ciencias Sociales, Educación y Comunicación, Universidad Nacional Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo, UNASAM. Av.
José Faustino Sánchez Carrión 908. Second floor, El Porvenir, Trujillo, Perú (jgamboavelasquez@yahoo.com)

Latin American Antiquity 26(1), 2015, pp. 87–105

Copyright © 2015 by the Society for American Archaeology
DOI: 10.7183/1045-6635.26.1.87

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(spaces used in ritual propitiation and social in- are central to representations of social order. Public
teraction) platforms. spaces are vital for the display of class, rank, or
Did the Moche of the north coast of Peru also status distinctions, becoming both sites of en-
perform these activities? As archaeological re- counter of different socioeconomic groups and
search has demonstrated, the construction of au- arenas for the development of social institutions
thority in Moche polities was closely related to (Moore 1996, 2005; Smith 2003; Swenson 2011).
public performances and the control of material This is particularly obvious in precolumbian urban
expressions of ideological power, including the centers such as Cuzco, Chan Chan, or Teotihuacan,
elaboration and use of public architecture (Bawden where public buildings were organized in sacred
2001:288-289; DeMarrais et al. 1996; Swenson built landscapes intended to express statements
2011). The understanding of Moche public build- of cosmological and sociopolitical order to a mas-
ings has deepened in recent years, with notable sive and inherently diverse audience.3 Public
advances in the study of architectural designs and buildings in use over long periods of time experi-
sequences and the symbolic power of mural art. enced changes in design and meaning that could
Nonetheless, rituals related to Moche architectural be highlighted by means of consecratory activities
renovation have not been a frequent subject of loaded with political and religious symbolism.
comparative analysis, with the exceptions of Haas Reflecting an interest in understanding process
(1985; Shimada 1994:238), Uceda (1997, 2008: and agency in the past, the establishment, use,
160–169)2, and Uceda and Canziani (1998:157– and termination of domestic and public buildings
158). Recent contributions by Chauchat and Gutie- have become important subjects in precolumbian
rrez (2013), Prieto (2008), Swenson (2012), Swen- research over the past few decades. The following
son and Warner (2012), and Trever et al. (2013) paragraphs will present the conceptual categories
offer a set of new contextualized data and interpre- employed in my analysis of the consecration of
tations of the linkage between architectural se- Moche public architecture. Some of the concepts
quences, offerings, and intentionally destroyed im- incorporate information drawn from the southern
ages in Moche public and household architecture. Andes and Mesoamerican studies. These cases
This article examines data from Huacas de have been selected with the aim of analyzing
Moche, El Brujo, and Guadalupito, three primary Moche ideology in a wider context which inte-
sites in the southern Moche area—a territory ex- grates information on place-making events from
tending from the Chicama to the Huarmey different regions in the Americas.
Valleys—from which there exists a great deal of Consecration events generally have a ceremo-
recently published contextual data. The recogni- nial character, articulating space and temporality
tion of the ideological practices associated with in special environments that engage architecture,
the physical and symbolic transformation of pub- visual representations, and performance. Archi-
lic architectural landscapes in these settlements tectural dedications can be defined as founding
provides a detailed understanding of ritual be- events identifiable in the material record through
haviors associated with the construction, use, and artifacts, bodies, or special items deposited below
abandonment of public spaces on the north coast or on the first occupational levels of a structure,
of Peru. This evidence leads us to evaluate the which later may be subject to remodeling and re-
issues of integrity, materiality, and alteration of construction. Conducted at the beginning of a
public architecture for this ancient society. At the construction project, the initial consecratory cer-
same time, this approach highlights the connec- emonies of a building may aim to grant life and
tion between the Andean concepts of growth and power to a building. Architectural dedications
rebirth and the broader precolumbian ideology. can also make a statement about the connection
between social leaders, divinities, and ancestors.
Theory of Dedication and Termination Rituals As such, dedications publicly reaffirm the claim
of a bond between a particular social group and
Public architecture is an extensive category that the meaning of a structure.
includes built spaces used for social interaction Evidence from different regions of the Americas
on a larger scale than the household unit, and that suggests that the majority of dedications conducted
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in residential structures and public buildings were junction of sacred time and space in the religious
intended to mark the initial construction of those ideology of ancient populations (Swenson
spaces—and the political negotiations associated 2012:15; Topic 2008). Viewed from this perspec-
with initiating such construction project—as well tive, dedications and events consecrating archi-
as encouraging the correct “ensouling” of spaces tectural renewal appear as integral parts of the
seen as animate entities. Although some authors continuous functional and symbolic value attrib-
have stressed the inherently animistic character of uted to socially meaningful built environments.
nature and its material components for indigenous Although carried out at different times in the oc-
societies of the Americas (Monaghan 1998), the cupational history of a structure, both types of
majority of studies on architectural dedications ritual activities contributed to legitimize—through
have emphasized the propitiatory and political performances and the manipulation of religious
character of these practices (Arriola and Tessar paraphernalia and special materials—distinct lev-
2011: 33–34; Meddens et al. 2010). els of power and authority before the members
Termination is usually defined as a ceremonial of a community.
event marking the end of the use of a space. Ter- Available data for the ancient Americas indi-
mination events are identifiable in the archaeo- cate that human and animal sacrifice were asso-
logical record through the recovery of special ciated with processes of renovation of ceremonial
materials placed intentionally on the floor of a settings originated in time cycles, dynastic
structure or through cultural deposits overlaying change, or natural disasters (López and López
structures that have been partially or completely 2009; Wester 2010:57–108). To identify the sym-
dismantled. Such indications of termination bolism of a sacrificial context requires, without
events include the presence of scattered and pur- doubt, a thorough analysis of its depositional
posefully smashed artifacts, the systematic de- characteristics as well as the artifacts associated
facement of architectural façades and sculptures, with sacrificial remains. A human or animal sac-
and the partial or complete burning of a building rifice located in the initial level of a building
(Chauchat and Gutierrez 2013:154–160; Pagliaro can be positively identified as part of a founding
et al. 2003; Topic et al. 2002: 312, 323–324; event if the successive construction stages reit-
Williams 2001:78–79). As the counterpart to ded- erate the location, architectural design, and func-
ications, termination rituals may have contributed tion of the early structures. The absence of su-
to reaching a state of consensus on the end of use perimposed or similarly designed architectural
of a built space, becoming a “precondition” for levels atop the sacrificial context may indicate,
the rebirth of a community and its ceremonial on the contrary, its correspondence to a ritual
settings (Mock 1998:119). Alternatively, the ter- termination. On the other hand, the recovery of
mination of public buildings may have been car- sacrificed individuals within or near tombs of
ried out by opposite political factions or by local high-ranking individuals can be interpreted as
inhabitants under coercion in the aftermath of part of the funerary practices of a population and
warfare engagements, acquiring a desecrative na- not necessarily as an indicator of the marking of
ture aimed at appropriating or erasing the identity time within a ceremonial space.
and prestige of a meaningful structure and its oc- Eventually, some buildings that undergo con-
cupants (Inomata 2003; López Luján et al. 2006; stant renovation and expansion are no longer sub-
Walker 1998). ject to this process. The abandonment of built
The ending of the original function of a build- spaces can be established from two types of ar-
ing could mean the starting point of a new cycle chaeological observations: the absence of mate-
of meaning. Some acts of architectural consecra- rials from later occupations and the evidence of
tion can acquire a compound nature consisting anomalies such as burning, the closing of door-
of both the termination of certain spaces and the ways, or the mutilation of decorations (Darras
propitiation of spaces subject to renewal. Such 2003:12). Later attitudes of local settlers towards
cases are more difficult for archaeologists to in- ancient buildings are highly variable in time, in-
terpret, but the meaning of these complex events cluding manifestations of homage, appropriation,
can be better understood by recognizing the con- and avoidance (Stanton and Magnoni 2008), as
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Figure 1. Map of the North Coast of Peru indicating main Moche sites mentioned in the text. Drawing by Jorge Gamboa.

illustrated by the current modalities of reuse for Data on Consecratory Activities in Southern
public buildings destroyed during the 1980s and Moche Public Architecture
1990s in the wake of political violence in the Pe-
ruvian highlands. Abandoned structures can even- From A.D. 100–800, the territory stretching be-
tually be subject to reoccupation with new reli- tween the Piura and Huarmey Valleys on the
gious, economic, or situational purposes, which North Coast of Peru was occupied by Moche
are expressed through activities as different as polities (Figure 1). The major Moche settlements
the quarrying of the building, its transformation are currently considered examples of early An-
into a burial ground, or the carrying out of com- dean urbanism. Interaction between elite groups
memorative and propitiatory ceremonies. and commoners took place in urban centers
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Figure 2. Huaca Cao Viejo. Sectors with evidence of consecratory ritual behavior (adapted from composite image pro-
vided by Proyecto Arqueológico El Brujo).

through public gatherings in walled plazas and sphere that extended from the Chicama Valley to
platforms conspicuously decorated with poly- the Santa Valley (Chapdelaine 2010a). Archaeo-
chrome murals and clay reliefs (Franco et al. logical excavations demonstrate that Platform I,
1994a, 2003; Gamboa 2014; Morales 2003; the main building of the so-called Old Temple of
Uceda 2001). Rituals and related activities re- Huaca de la Luna, was periodically rebuilt, with
viewed in this paper were conducted in public successive constructive events in which old struc-
buildings used for public and private religious tures were filled with adobe to create the foun-
performances or to accomplish administrative dations for a new precinct (Uceda and Canziani
functions and elite interaction. The Old Temple 1998:157–158). Renovations of Platform I fin-
at Huaca de la Luna and Cao Viejo belong to the ished around A.D. 650, when elite competition
first group, sharing architectural traits, decoration within the polity led to a shift in power to the
patterns, and a series of similarly organized con- Huaca del Sol compound and the New Temple
texts that reflect religious behavior. The of Huaca de la Luna (Uceda and Morales 2009).
Guadalupito platforms stand apart from these The site of El Brujo emerged around the third
buildings, displaying different growth processes century A.D. as the principal ceremonial center
and contextual evidence for their functioning as of the lower Chicama Valley and the center of a
palatial buildings. powerful autonomous polity. Excavations at
Located in the Lower Moche Valley, the site Huaca Cao Viejo (Figure 2), one of the two main
of Huacas de Moche was an extensive settlement platforms of the site, have revealed several con-
composed of two massive adobe platforms, Huaca struction phases dated between A.D. 300–650.
del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, surrounded by During its early occupational phases, the site was
large residential areas (Chapdelaine 2008; Uceda ruled by military and priestly elite lineages and
2001). From the fifth to the early eighth century Huaca Cao Viejo presented idiosyncratic forms
A.D., the leaders of the settlement were at the of mural decoration. The last phase of occupation
head of a political and economic interaction at Cao Viejo reveals a strong relationship with
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the Old Temple at Huaca de la Luna, with both Some Moche consecratory acts performed dur-
buildings sharing architectural features and icono- ing the ending of use of a building can be con-
graphic programs (Franco et al. 1994a, 2003; Mu- sidered to reflect interrelated termination and ren-
jica 2007:155–171). ovation propitiatory practices. One of the earliest
From A.D. 600–750, Guadalupito was the examples of this behavior comes from an offering
main Moche settlement in the Lower Santa Valley, cache found in the Second Building of Cao Viejo
presenting an urban landscape dominated by two (A.D. 300–400). This cache, placed over the floor
massive platforms: Huaca Tembladera and Huaca of a corridor in the summit of the platform, was
Chica (Chapdelaine 2011; Wilson 1988:207, 211– composed of three wooden clubs without their
212). Excavations by the Santa Valley Project of gilded metallic coverings, organic remains, char-
Université de Montreal at the main platforms of coal, and roofing materials (Franco et al. 1999,
Guadalupito revealed evidence related to activi- 2001). The subsequent recovery of complete,
ties of conspicuous consumption and redistribu- finely crafted clubs in tombs (Franco 2009) indi-
tion. Both buildings were constantly remodeled cates that these objects were symbols of high so-
until their abandonment at the end of the eighth cial rank and participation in religious and martial
century A.D. ceremonies. Renovation rituals related to the Sec-
The current scarcity of data on ceremonies ond Building of Cao Viejo also included the set-
aimed at marking the initial foundation of south- ting of wooden sculptures within structures filled
ern Moche buildings can be attributed to the chal- with adobe (Franco et al. 2001; Mujica 2007). A
lenges of excavating the deepest levels of monu- large sculpture representing a human figure with
mental architecture. A noteworthy exception is two animal beings above its head was found
the excavation of the first construction level in placed over a level of soil and organic remains
the Cao Viejo plaza, which recovered the body covering the floor of a pillared room. It is un-
of a vulture—possibly a black vulture, Coragyps known whether this monument originally stood
atratus (Régulo Franco, personal communication in the room where it was discovered, but a second
2014)—placed beside two semicircular sunken wood sculpture representing the head of a bird
rooms (Figure 3; Franco et al. 1994b:57). Carrion of prey was found nearby. In both cases, the place-
birds were considered by the Moche to be emis- ment of the sculptures was preceded by the re-
saries of death and companions of the gods during moval of metal coverings.
mythical journeys. The symbolic importance of Several caches recovered in Platform I at
vultures in Moche beliefs regarding sacrifice, Huaca de la Luna also suggest the performance
death, and the afterlife (Benson 1975:132-133) of renovation-related religious practices intended
supports the interpretation of this context as evi- to propitiate the foundation of new structures.
dence for the ritual consecration of the first of a Excavations in Unit 16 at Platform I revealed
series of semicircular structures built on the same several adobe receptacles within the fill of a room
section of the plaza during successive episodes. complex from Buildings B and C. These features
Data from the Lurín Valley shows that the body were filled in with organic remains, metallic re-
parts of Andean condors (Vultur gryphus, another galia, and ceramic objects, with a special cache
carrion bird with an important role in Andean re- of gilded copper diadems and ornaments located
ligious beliefs) were used in ceremonial settings over the uppermost row of adobe blocks sealing
since at least the Late Formative period (400– the sector (Zavaleta 2005:49–52, 55, 2006:19–
100 BC; Jave 2013). Recent excavations at the 27, Figure 6). Another adobe receptacle contained
Early Intermediate Period site of Mango I, Cule- a ceramic mask, guinea pig (Cavia porcellus)
bras Valley, revealed another instance of dedica- bones, and organic remains (Zavaleta 2005:51–
tory practices in a public building located in the 52, Figure 67). Given the artistic quality and the
southern extreme of the Moche territory. At ideological and economical values inherent to
Mango I, the building was dedicated by sacrific- some of the offered materials, these acts can be
ing two camelids, which were wrapped in mats considered a manifestation of the symbolic ap-
and placed beneath the floor of an entry courtyard propriation of meaningful loci by particular elite
(Giersz 2011:281). groups (Figure 4). The nature of the materials
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Figure 3. Dual chambers and location of animal offering at Cao Viejo plaza (adapted from Franco et al. 1994a).

found in caches from Cao Viejo and Huaca de la depictions of the faces of divinities (Uceda
Luna also indicate that the architectural renova- 2001:53–55; Uceda et al. 1994:271–274). During
tions were preceded by activities such as the ma- the construction of Building B, some friezes on
nipulation of high-prestige items, the dismantling the north wall were shattered and were subse-
of roofs, and, possibly, ritual meals. quently plastered and painted white (Uceda and
At the Old Temple at Huaca de la Luna, Build- Tufinio 2003:208, Figure 20.19). Similarly, at
ing D (dated around A.D. 400–450) is the first Cao Viejo the covering of the Second Building
construction stage that provides evidence of ar- by later architecture involved the partial removal
chitectural remodeling. Niches, columns, and of clay reliefs covering the front side of the south-
roofs in the main court were intentionally de- east corner room at the summit of the platform
stroyed prior to completely filling the building (Franco et al. 2001, 2004:168; Mujica 2007:116,
(Montoya 1997:26–27). The transition between 118–119). In this case, the faces of two large im-
Building C and Building B did not involve a ma- ages of a fanged god were shattered and taken
jor process of infilling, but rather the extension apart from the supporting wall when the structure
of existent structures in the so-called Upper Sector was filled with adobe (Figure 5).
(Tufinio 2006:Figures 9–10). Renewal of that Excavations in Moche public buildings suggest
area resulted in the physical destruction of some that particular procedures characterized every
previously extant mural decorations from Build- episode of the covering of decorated walls. At
ing C (Mackey and Hastings 1982; Morales the Old Temple of Huaca de la Luna, relief faces
2003:Figure 14.13). in the east side of the Building D courtyard were
This is not an isolated example of the partial carefully covered with adobe blocks, receiving
destruction of imagery at Huaca de la Luna. Dur- almost no damage. A section of the east side of
ing the Building C occupation period, the main the main courtyard of Building C presents reliefs
court of the platform was decorated with relief that were destroyed beyond recognition or com-
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Figure 4. Platform I at Huaca de la Luna. Cache of metallic ornaments overlying room complex filled with adobe blocks.
Courtesy S. Uceda and Proyecto Huacas de Moche.

Figure 5. Frieze of Moche god with defaced visage at corner room of Cao Viejo Second Building. Photograph by J.
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Figure 6. Huaca de la Luna. Differential preservation conditions of reliefs covered with adobes. Photograph by J.

pletely removed from the wall, while on the south emonial structure identified at Huaca Colorada,
side of the same patio, the friezes are preserved Jequetepeque Valley.
in good condition (Figure 6). A late repercussion Found in tombs and caches, Spondylus princeps
of the partial destruction of the friezes in Building and Conus fergusoni equatorial shells were cere-
C can be detected in Tomb 2, a funerary chamber monial items relatively common at northern
located in the fill between Buildings A and B–C. Moche sites (Alva and Donnan 1993; Cordy-
This burial of a high priest contained the fragment Collins 2003; Haas 1985; Chapdelaine et al.
of a polychrome frieze depicting a god face in 2009:186). Nonetheless, these tropical shells are
the style of the Building C patio. This element not particularly abundant in southern Moche fu-
was placed beneath the cane coffin during the nerary and architectural contexts, and are com-
mortuary rituals (Uceda 1997:178). pletely absent in tombs from Cao Viejo and Hua-
An important but unclear aspect of the data cas de Moche. The number of publications
on southern Moche consecratory practices is the mentioning southern Moche contexts for camelid
low frequency of offering contexts in architectural and tropical shells offerings in built spaces is no-
settings that include the body parts of domestic tably small, especially when we consider the
camelids. This contrasts with the recurrence of higher frequency of these materials during the
these animals in Moche funerary contexts from Chimú period (A.D. 1000–1450) (Pillsbury
the Lambayeque to Santa Valleys (Goepfert 1996).
2010). In the sites reviewed here, as well as in Burning and closing of accesses are two pos-
other Moche settlements with public architecture sible Moche termination behaviors. Excavations
such as El Castillo de Santa, Mocollope, and at the main plaza of Huaca de la Luna in 1999
Pañamarca, the evidence of offerings of animals revealed that the north portal had been blocked
in monumental buildings are scarce or absent, al- by an adobe wall crudely plastered on the outside,
though this situation may change with additional an element that contributed to isolating the plaza
excavations. The exceptions are the Mango I site from the surrounding areas (Armas et al. 2004:84,
(Giersz 2011) and, for the northern Moche region, 92). Although there are currently no radiocarbon
Pampa Grande (Haas 1985), where sacrificed dates for this event, it seems to mark the aban-
camelids were part of dedicatory offerings in pa- donment of the precinct around A.D. 650 (Uceda
tios and platforms. It is worth mentioning the dis- and Morales 2009:91–107). At the corner room
covery by Swenson (2012:16) of offerings of a of the same plaza, Moche and Chimú offerings
dog and a guinea pig in a ritually terminated cer- have been recovered (Tufinio 2007). Data from
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Figure 7. Blocked access of Huaca Chica excavated by Santa Valley Project of Université de Montreal. Photograph by J.

the Santa Valley shows evidence for the sealing the entrance to the ceremonial court was closed
of doorways into public spaces in a settlement and sherds of high-quality local and foreign-pro-
coeval with Huacas de Moche. At Huaca Tem- duced ceramics were scattered through the fill.
bladera, the entrances to a massive ramp and to a The secondary entrance to the courtyard was also
storage area on the west side of the platform were found blocked with an unplastered adobe wall.
found blocked by unplastered walls built by the Other evidence from Guadalupito corresponds
latest Moche occupants of the settlement to burning events carried out next to special struc-
(Chapdelaine 2011:Figure 16). It is worth men- tures and accesses. The main patio of Huaca
tioning that the excavation of the latest architec- Chica presented on its eastern side a peculiar
tural phases of Moche domestic compounds at structure with steps on two sides. The west and
the nearby Cerro Temblador sector also revealed north sides of the bench and surrounding floor
sealed doorways. areas contained evidence of a burning event dur-
Excavations at Huaca Chica in Guadalupito ing which the plaster was reddened by the com-
focused on its northwest courtyard (Chapdelaine bustion of organic materials (Figure 8). The west
2011:Figure 19). The main portal was found façade of Huaca Chica also showed evidence of
blocked with an unplastered adobe wall (Figure burning near the blocked main portal, with sec-
7), which retained non-stratified soil fill containing tions of wall plaster and floor reddened by a fire
fragments of Moche vessels and Wari-style poly- that happened before a rainy period. The fill over
chrome wares (Chapdelaine 2010b: Figure 12.3). both burning features indicated those areas were
This deposit can be interpreted as evidence for an left uncovered and open to the accumulation of
event of termination and abandonment in which sediments and debris.
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Figure 8. Burnt structure at Huaca Chica. Proyecto Santa Université de Montreal. Drawing by the author.

The Practices of Architectural Consecration foundational ritual practices at Cao Viejo and
in Southern Moche Public Buildings Mango I stand as evidence for a possible pattern
of deposition of complete materials during dedi-
The available evidence suggests that Moche ar- cation rites. Despite these lines of evidence, the
chitectural consecration behaviors should be un- southern Moche consecratory events do not reveal
derstood as activities associated with stages of a clear-cut difference between dedication and ter-
renewal and termination rather than of dedica- mination contexts in relation to the integrity of
tional character. Despite the recognizable bias in items used.
the sample, there is the possibility of recognizing Even as the database on Moche and early Mid-
patterned activities associated with particular mo- dle Horizon (A.D. 700–900) buildings with wall
ments in the construction sequences of platforms decoration has expanded significantly in recent
and plazas. years, the known examples of intentional destruc-
tion of murals do not seem to correspond to an-
Liminal Rites and Material cient vandalism but to the renewal or termination
Integrity of Architectural Decoration of ceremonial spaces. The filling in of decorated
Research on the architectural sequences of public walls at Huaca de la Luna and Cao Viejo demon-
and residential architecture in the precolumbian strates the efforts made to protect the integrity of
Americas has defined patterns of physical in- the ceremonial spaces being buried, an attitude
tegrity for materials used in the ritual consecration that can be interpreted as a maintained respect
of public monuments and buildings, with differ- toward their symbolism. Walls decorated with
ence in the treatment given to offered materials friezes and mural paintings were in some cases
during foundational dedications and terminations cut through or plastered over during a later occu-
(Garber 1983; Walker 1998). In the case of the pation, which indicates that the design and aes-
Moche, artifacts, organic materials, and human thetics of ceremonial architecture could be sig-
bodies recorded in dedicatory caches and termi- nificantly modified when changes in the meaning
nation contexts at Huaca de la Luna and Cao and experience of a space required it. An out-
Viejo were found in either complete or fragmen- standing example of this renovation practice is
tary condition. Animal offerings recorded for the partial destruction of murals in the northwest
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Figure 9. Huaca Cao Viejo. Decorated wall showing mural paintings modified by niches (drawing by J. Gamboa after
Mujica 2007:128).

corner room of the Second Building of Cao Viejo, tural termination. Metallic mortuary masks de-
beside which were discovered the burials of the picting human and supernatural faces could be
“Dama de Cao” and her companions (Mujica subject to the extraction of one inlaid shell eye
2007:210–211). The decorated north exterior fa- (Campana 1999; Donnan 2008), a practice that
cade of that structure was cut to make room for a Bourget (2006:56–57) argued reflected an em-
pair of large niches probably used to contain of- phasis in Moche ideology on representing the tran-
ferings and mortuary paraphernalia for the nearby sition between complete and incomplete natures
tombs—an action that resulted in the partial de- (something seen, for example, in ceramic vessels
struction of six of the eight squares containing portraying one-eyed and mutilated individuals).
painted images of a divine character (Figure 9). Regarding the reasons for the occasional destruc-
In this case, the asymmetrical modification of the tion of reliefs at Huaca de la Luna and Cao Viejo,
decorated wall would have displayed the new it is possible to propose that this behavior was
meaning acquired by the chamber during the mor- occasionally performed to represent the liminal
tuary rites conducted in the patio. The importance condition of images representing supernatural en-
of the niches in ceremonial courtyards of later tities during the burial of architecture and, as seen
precolumbian societies in northern Peru is noted above, in association with changes in the sym-
by Moore (1996:134–135), who, based on eth- bolism of the building. Why this behavior was
nohistorical data, suggests that they were used not performed on a larger number of wall decora-
for the placement of offerings and body parts of tions is not clear, but it could be linked to historical
sacrificed animals. processes particular to each ceremonial center, as
Demonstrating another facet of Moche con- the case of Cao Viejo suggests.4
cepts of integrity of images and buildings, the re-
covery in a priestly tomb at Huaca de la Luna of Placing of Inverted Materials during
a clay face extracted from a frieze panel indicates Architectural Consecrations
that icons recovered from terminated buildings A review of the literature brought up several cases
were occasionally preserved. The defacing of vi- of human bodies and objects placed in an inverted
sual representations was not limited to architec- position during ceremonies marking the renova-
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tion and termination of ceremonial public spaces: of the left femur. Nearby the articulated upper
a group of individuals sacrificed during the aban- body of an adult was found, also face down, with
donment of the plaza of Cao Viejo around A.D. its arms in an unusual position. Partial remains
600, the wooden human sculpture from Cao Viejo of a vulture and two incomplete bodies of canids
placed in horizontal position before the Second (Régulo Franco, personal communication 2014)
Building was filled in, and the offering of a cer- were found as part of this complex ritual of sac-
emonial shield recovered in Platform II at Paña- rifice and body manipulation.
marca, Nepeña Valley, dating to around A.D. 650. The contexts identified at the plaza of Cao
This last artifact, excavated by the author and Viejo stand as evidence of a termination process
Lisa Trever during the 2010 season of the Paña- that included the sacrifice of young and adult hu-
marca Project (Trever et al. 2013), was found mans and the dismantling of structures. Other
within a decorated niche covered with adobes data suggest that sacrificial behavior during south-
dating from an early phase of the constructive ern Moche terminations was not limited to public
sequence of the building. monumental buildings. Rituals comparable to
These contexts provide evidence of a regional those from the plaza of Cao Viejo, although on a
pattern of ceremonial termination that involved smaller scale, were enacted in Residential Com-
as a central episode the offering of artifacts and pound 9 at Huacas de Moche, where a young
human bodies placed in inverted position and woman killed by a blow to the head was buried
covered beneath intentional filling. The face- without any ceramic vessels in a room that was
down position of materials can be interpreted as subsequently sealed (Chapdelaine 2004:180, 183,
a means to materialize the passing of symbolically 2008:74). In yet another case of ritual termination
charged objects into the condition of unseen or of ceremonial spaces, recent excavations at Huaca
hidden entities. After A.D. 800, Tanguche and Colorada, Jequetepeque Valley, revealed the de-
Early Chimú peoples popularized the use of ce- position of human bodies—some of individuals
ramic offerings in inverted position during mor- who suffered intentional death—and animals in
tuary rites, placing mold-pressed bowls on the the architectural public settings of that northern
cranium of the deceased during the burial process Moche community (Swenson 2012:15–16, Fig-
(Donnan and Mackey 1978:242–251). ures 4, 5b; Swenson and Warner 2012:329–330).
It should be mentioned that for later precolumbian
Human Sacrifice and Termination Activities periods there are references of human dedicatory
Some examples of Moche termination rites come and sacrificial burials associated with the creation
from walled plazas. The termination of the plaza of architectural spaces, for example, in the cere-
of Cao Viejo involved human sacrifices and burial monial and administrative buildings of Batán
activities in its southeast sector. Excavations con- Grande, La Leche Valley (Shimada 1990:341,
ducted in 1993 revealed the incomplete and dis- Figure 25).
articulated remains of several individuals buried
inside a large cavity breaking the floor of the Burning of Architectural Features
plaza (Franco et al. 2001:151, 153–154, 2003). and Closing of Accesses
This cavity was covered with sediment and Although it could be argued that fires such as
eroded adobes, and the plaza lacked evidence for those observed in the monumental buildings of
subsequent constructive activities by the Moche. Guadalupito do not necessarily indicate ritual ac-
The context included the incomplete and disar- tivity, it should be noted that these features were
ticulated remains of two children, a young adult, associated with special architectural components
and two adults, some subjected to special peri- and occurred directly over the last occupational
mortem and postmortem treatment. For example, floors. The burning events recorded at Guadalupito
one child was buried near a ramp in extended seem to reflect a type of termination behavior rec-
position, facing downwards, and with a fracture ognized elsewhere in the North Coast. At Pacat-
on the upper right side of the skull. The body po- namú, Jequetepeque Valley, a room containing
sition and the cranial trauma indicate that this in- Late Mochica ceramics also preserved evidence
dividual was sacrificed, with postmortem removal of libation, the deposition of human bodies and
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100 LATIN AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 26, No. 1, 2015

camelid bones, and incineration of valued com- not received systematic attention, but are fre-
modities. These features are interpreted as part of quently overlooked as part of a general approach
a consecratory ceremony (Cordy-Collins 1997: to ancient cultural dynamics. Previously, much
288). Additional data on burning events associated of the evidence now recognized as indicators of
with ceremonial architecture comes from one of consecratory behavior was registered as “waste
the early buildings of Cao Viejo, for which Franco layers” or “evidence of squatters.” Nonetheless,
et al. (2003:146) mention the presence of rooms current improvements in recording techniques
with traces of fire. Information recently published and a broader anthropological approach reveal
for the Middle Horizon site of Cerro La Cruz, the importance that research on the organization
Chao Valley (Vogel 2012:94, 141–145) reveals and meaning of architectural consecration prac-
that the settlement abandonment was marked by tices acquires in our understanding of Moche
the planned and extensive burning of residential conceptions of time, space, and materiality.
and public buildings, increasing our reference base There is a growing set of evidence for behav-
for the relationship between termination processes ioral patterns associated with the foundation, re-
and burning events, and at the same time indicat- newal, and abandonment of public buildings. At
ing local differences in the practice and meaning Huaca de la Luna and Cao Viejo, and also at
of incinerations. Huaca Colorada and Pañamarca, a cycle of phys-
The closing of accesses is relatively common ical and symbolic transformations of the ritual
in North Coast archaeological sites of the first space seems to have occurred during the use of
millennium A.D., having been recorded in Huaca each building. The stages of creation, change,
Colorada, Huancaco, and Plataforma Uhle at Hua- and termination of the architectural space at these
cas de Moche (Swenson 2012). The blocking of ceremonial complexes involved the intentional
doorways does not appear to have been carried covering or destruction of mural icons, the place-
out only as a practical gesture to prevent entry ment of offerings on floors and in caches, the de-
into a public space. On the contrary, the contexts position of inverted effigies, and human and ani-
of Guadalupito and Huaca de la Luna suggest that mal sacrifice. The termination activities carried
the closing of the accesses was associated with out at the platforms of Guadalupito focused on
the ceremonial termination and intended isolation controlled burnings carried out near conspicuous
of public buildings. Concerning Guadalupito, the architectural features and on the sealing of
combined burning and closure of access ways into entryways—activities that symbolized withdrawal
main buildings support the argument of a planned from the main buildings. Foundational dedica-
withdrawal from built environments symbolizing tions have yet to be reported at Guadalupito.
authority, a process that included the accomplish- As we have seen, among the ancient Moche
ment of particular ritual and practical activities. some acts of architectural termination appear
The abandonment process of Guadalupito also linked to the dedication of construction activities,
shows different features from those observed dur- becoming ritual gestures potentially intended
ing the fall of Pampa Grande (Lambayeque Valley) both to celebrate the past and to promote the
around A.D. 750. At Pampa Grande, the aban- renovation of a built space. Votive contexts found
donment event was marked by the selective de- at some of the platforms discussed here designate
struction of ceremonial and elite settings, espe- the burying of an old structure and the beginning
cially those at the summit of Huaca Fortaleza of a new construction project as times for per-
(Shimada 1994:247–248). formances aimed at propitiating the physical
reenactment of the sacred precincts. Our current
Final Remarks level of knowledge of Moche public architecture
and ideology does not permit us to associate
The analysis of data on architectural sequences these ritual activities with the celebration of cal-
offers the opportunity to identify a set of social endrical cycles. Instead, the available evidence
behaviors directly related to the creation, renewal, points toward the association of events of dedi-
and termination of ancient built environments. cation, renewal, and termination with political
In the past decades these kinds of processes have changes and responses to natural phenomena.
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The identification of ceremonial practices as- ideological negotiations, this possibility should
sociated with the architectural growth of southern continue to be investigated.
Moche buildings supports the assumption that Who were those responsible for the perfor-
early Andean built spaces were thought of as im- mance of consecration rituals in the monumental
bued with animate identities (Swenson 2012:16- Moche built spaces? The practices discussed here
17). Moche architectural consecrations can be had different goals, with each ideological practice
considered an early manifestation of the late pre- possibly related to the status, role, and purposes
columbian and modern belief in the enqa or ca- of people in charge of the rites. At Huaca de la
maquen, the vital force that can arise, be con- Luna and Cao Viejo, architectural dedication, re-
tained, and be manipulated to produce welfare modeling, and termination rituals would have been
and animal fertility (Bray 2009; Flores 1977; conducted by rulers and priestly officials, and
Taylor 2000). In a general sense, ritual propitia- these practices marked transitional periods in the
tions enacted in the monumental architecture of long-term existence of ceremonial compounds.
the Peruvian north coast between A.D. 300 and At Guadalupito the termination ceremonies were
800 can be compared with the pagapu propitia- possibly executed under the direction of local
tory practices known through historical sources leaders within a programmed withdrawal from
and ethnography (Nachtigall 1975; Tomoeda their political stages. In each of these sites the
1994). Nonetheless, in spite of their apparent dedication, renovation, and termination cere-
conceptual and symbolic relationship with mod- monies should also have had repercussions for
ern Andean dedications, consecration practices the broad population of craft specialists and com-
conducted in Moche public buildings differed moners, groups whose role in the development of
from the pagapus not only by their chronological the Moche ideological system and structures of
precedence but also by their nature as events ar- power and authority has yet to be fully evaluated
ticulating religion, time, public, and scenery on (see Lohse 2007 for a discussion on this topic).
a larger scale (DeMarrais et al. 1996:24–26). Additionally, different processes of termination
Southern Moche architectural consecrations also and abandonment of monumental edifices at
appear different from those of Chimú society, Moche capitals present a challenge for scholars
which developed in the north coast between the who, beside identifying the causal factors for the
tenth and fifteenth centuries A.D. In view of the transformation of specific political institutions and
available evidence, it is possible to assume that ideologies, must take into consideration how the
the placing of sacrificed camelids and Spondylus social memory of regional peoples interlinked
shells was not a recurring component of the ded- with the perception and use of physical remains
ications and terminations of the southern Moche of the past (Stanton and Magnoni 2008:5).
area, a situation that apparently began to change Without doubt, the recording and analysis of
after A.D. 700. evidence for Moche ceremonial conduct associ-
Moche art does not show explicit represen- ated with the creation of built spaces will broaden
tations of consecratory acts as those discussed our understanding of the ideology and organiza-
here. The main difficulty in identifying these tion of that society. As demonstrated in this paper,
practices in the iconography is that images do the careful recording of the remains of consecra-
not show unfinished buildings or places in the tory ceremonies and the increase of comparative
process of construction (see Wiersema 2012). information on those rituals and associated prac-
Does this exclude the consecration of public tices is crucial to improving our understanding of
spaces from the Moche pictorial corpus? Per- the function and meaning of ancient buildings. At
haps we should appreciate the painted and mod- first sight, evidence of burned floors, sealed doors,
eled architectural representations from new per- and defaced friezes can be interpreted as the results
spectives, considering that some scenes could of secular activities or accidental events. However,
have been created to celebrate the initial conse- when considered as part of the human experience
cration or the termination of an edifice. Given of built spaces, these contexts provide a particu-
the importance to the Moche of the creation and larly rich source of information on the nature of
use of spaces aimed for social interaction and precolumbian public architecture.
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102 LATIN AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 26, No. 1, 2015

Acknowledgments. This essay was written during a Summer Costa Norte del Perú, edited by Luis Valle, pp. 177–188.
Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks granted to the author in 2009. Ediciones Sian, Trujillo.
I am especially grateful to Joanne Pillsbury, former Director of 2008 Out in the Streets of Moche. In Andean Archaeology
Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, for her confidence I, edited by William Isbell and Helaine Silverman, pp.
and encouragement in the preparation of this work. Special 53–88. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publisher, New York.
2010a Moche Political Organization in the Santa Valley. A
recognition also goes to Bridget Gazzo, Emily Gulick, and An-
Case of Direct Rule through Gradual Control of Local
tonio Murro for their constant help. Eugenia Ibarra, Lisa De Population. In New Perspectives on Moche Political Or-
Leonardis, Lisa Lyall, Matthew Looper, and Federico Navarrete, ganization, edited by Jeffrey Quilter and Luis J. Castillo,
co-fellows at Dumbarton Oaks, provided an excellent envi- pp. 252–279. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and
ronment for the discussion of ideas. Walter Alva, Elizabeth Collection, Washington, D.C.
Benson, Hélène Bernier, Alicia Boswell, Claude Chapdelaine, 2010b Moche and Wari during the Middle Horizon on the
David Chicoine, Christopher Donnan, Régulo Franco, Carol North Coast of Peru. In Beyond Wari Walls. Regional
Mackey, Ricardo Morales, Jason Nesbitt, David Pacifico, Victor Perspectives on Middle Horizon Peru, edited by Justin
Pimentel, Sarahh Scher, Edward Swenson, Lisa Trever, Santiago Jennings, pp. 213–232. University of New Mexico Press,
Uceda, Elisenda Vila, Carlos Wester, and Juliet Wiersema pro-
2011 Los Moche del Santa. Una larga historia. In Andes 8.
vided helpful comments on the issues raised in this paper. Aldo Arqueología de la Costa de Ancash, edited by Milosz
Watanave was of great support in the elaboration of the North Giersz and Ivan Ghezzi, pp. 185–230. Warsaw University
Coast map. Some photographs used in this article were provided and Institut Français d´Études Andines, Lima.
by Proyecto Huacas de Moche, Proyecto El Brujo and Fun- Chapdelaine, Claude, and Víctor Pimentel
dación Wiese, and Santa Valley Project of Université de Mon- 2008 Personaje de Alto Rango en San Juanito, Santa. In
treal. I also thank the anonymous reviewers who provided valu- Señores de los Reinos de la Luna, edited by Krzysztof
able critiques on a first draft of the manuscript. Makowski, pp. 248–253. Banco de Crédito del Perú,
Chapdelaine, Claude, Víctor Pimentel, and Jorge Gamboa
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2012 Frontier Life in Ancient Peru: The Archaeology of Morales, pp. 13–39. Proyecto Huacas de Moche. Trujillo.
Cerro La Cruz. University of Florida Press, Gainesville. Zuidema, Tom
Walker, Debra S. 1964 The Ceque System of Cusco: The Social Organization
1998 Smashed Pots and Shattered Dreams: The Material of the Capital of the Inca. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
Evidence for an Early Classic Maya Termination at
Cerros, Belize. In The Sowing and the Dawning. Termi-
nation, Dedication, and Transformation in the Archaeo- Notes
logical and Ethnographical Record at Mesoamerica,
edited by Shirley B. Mock, pp. 81–99. University of New 1. Pagapu rituals are usually carried out in open areas and
Mexico Press, Albuquerque. courtyards. Offerings can include vessels, foodstuff, coca
Wester, Carlos leaves, corn beer, and conopas or illas (small stone animal
2010 Chotuna-Chornancap: Templos, rituales y ancestros sculptures).
Lambayeque. Unidad Ejecutora Naylamp and Museo
2. Uceda (1997) considered the incomplete human remains
Brüning de Lambayeque, Lima.
Wiersema, Juliet found within adobe chambers at Platform I to be offerings
2012 Moche Architectural Vessels: Small Structures, Big linked to the renovation of the temple.
Implications. Andean Past 10:67–98. 3. Andean cases of urban planning based on principles of
Wilson, David cosmological representation and sacred landscape are analyzed
1988 Prehispanic Settlements Patterns in the Lower Santa by Zuidema (1964) and Sakai (1998), among others.
Valley, North Coast of Peru. A Regional Perspective on 4. The systematic recording of the destruction of faces
the Origins and Development of Complex Society. Smith- and other body parts of characters represented in Moche friezes
sonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. and murals may provide major illumination in this regard (see
Williams, Patrick R.
Houston et al. 2006:76 and O’Neil 2013 for references on the
2001 Cerro Baúl: A Wari Center on the Tiwanaku. Latin
American Antiquity 12(1):67–83. mutilation of images in Classic Maya sculpture).
Zavaleta, Enrique
2005 Unidad 16. In Proyecto Huaca de la Luna. Informe
Técnico 2004, edited by Santiago Uceda and Ricardo
Morales, pp. 21–55. Proyecto Huacas de Moche, Trujillo. Submitted December 31, 2013; Revised August 22, 2014;
2006 Unidad 16. In Proyecto Huaca de la Luna. Informe Accepted December 19 2014.