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  • Moche or Mochica culture? Answering frequently asked questions

Peru is the cradle of an impressive accumulation of civilizations that have left great vestiges for posterity. One of these settled on the northern coast of Peru and was called the Mochica culture.

But who were they? The Mochica, also known as Moche, were an ancient civilization that flourished on the northern coast of Peru between 100 and 800 A.D. Its legacy endures through archaeological complexes that dazzle with their excellent state of conservation, such as Huaca de la Luna, in the Moche Valley, the huaca Cao Viejo and huaca Cortada in Chicama, Dos Cabezas in Jequetepeque and so many other sites spread over a dozen coastal valleys.

These outstanding farmers, hunters, and potters were characterized by their complex social organization, expressed in impressive religious rituals, monumental architecture, and exceptional art. 

To help you learn more about the Mochica culture, in this post we answer the most frequently asked questions about it: 

Is it Moche or Mochica culture?

Both terms are accepted to name the pre-Hispanic culture that settled in the northern territory, comprised between Alto Piura to Jequetepeque; as well as in the southern territory, in which it encompassed the valleys from Chicama to Huarmey. 

The choice between "Moche" and "Mochica" depends on the interpretation and preference of the experts. Generally speaking, "Moche" is used by many archaeologists and scholars to refer to this ancient civilization. This choice is based on the name of the geographic region where the culture flourished, specifically in the Moche, Chicama, and Viru valleys. For other specialists, Moche corresponds strictly to the valley of the same name, the nucleus of the culture in question, which by derivation is called "Mochica".


What stands out the most about Mochica culture?

What stands out the most about the Mochica culture is its extraordinary artistic legacy and complex social system. The Mochica were noted for their skill in pottery, creating fine objects that depicted religious scenes and social hierarchies. 

In addition, the Mochica elite, comprising figures such as the Lady of Cao, demonstrated a complex political and religious system. Their temples, ritual objects, and power strategies reveal a society rich in traditions and marked by a distinctive social hierarchy.

Where did the Moche culture originate and develop?

The Mochica culture originated and developed on the northern coast of Peru, specifically in the valleys of the coastal region, between 100 and 800 A.D. Its main urban centers include sites such as Huaca de la Luna and Huaca del Sol in the Moche Valley, as well as Galindo, in the same valley, or Pampa Grande in Jerquetepeque. These places reveal the extensive influence and complexity of Mochica society during its apogee.


How did the Mochica feed themselves?

The Mochica supported their diet through various sources, including hunting, fishing, and agriculture. They raised animals such as guinea pigs, llamas, and hunted species such as vizcachas, deer, sea lions and seabirds. Their diet is complemented by a varied selection of cultivated plants, such as corn, custard apple, soursop, friar's plum, ají, cucurbita squash, mate, lucuma, guava, and legumes such as peanuts, pacae, jack beans, lima beans, beans and carob trees. The diversity of foods in their diet reflects the adaptation of the Mochica to their ecological environment in the lowlands of the Andes Mountain Range.

What was the pottery of the Mochica culture like?

Mochica pottery is one of the most outstanding aspects of their culture. It is characterized by the artistic exquisiteness and technical skill of the artisans. The Mochica produced both utilitarian and ceremonial pottery, but it is in ceremonial pottery that they attained their highest expression.

Who was the main god of the Mochica?

The Mochica worshipped Aiapaec, also known as the "Decapitator or God of the Mountain." Aiapaec was an important deity in Mochica mythology, depicted in a hybrid manner, with human and animal characteristics such as tusks and a ceremonial knife. Its presence in Mochica iconography suggests that it played a crucial role in religious beliefs and ceremonies, being associated with fertility, power, and protection.

Now that you know a little more about the Mochica culture, we invite you to get closer to this culture by scheduling a visit to the El Brujo Archaeological Complex. We look forward to greeting you!

You can also read:

1. Food in Ancient Peru

2. Frequently Asked Questions about the El Brujo Archaeological Complex

3. Loom weaving, an ancestral technique. Diana Silva: "We are constantly competing with the low value given to textile products"

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