Huaca de la Luna - Moche City Center in Peru

Moche City Center in Peru

Sculptured Wall Terraces at Huaca de la Luna (Peru)
Sculptured Wall Terraces at Huaca de la Luna (Peru). TravelingMan

Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) is a large Moche civilization pyramid temple, one of two located in the Huacas de Moche Site, the capital of the Southern Moche region. Huacas de Moche includes this pyramid and the Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun), separated by a large urban complex. Huacas de Moche was occupied between 200-700 AD.

Huaca de la Luna is the main temple feature at Huacas de Moche.

Huaca de la Luna was used between about 500 and 800 AD, and its construction includes three large platform mounds with adjacent plazas, covering an area of 210x290 meters (690x950 feet).

Huaca de la Luna was built to express the religious and political control of its priests. People could get to the heart of the site by crossing an enormous walled plaza and walking up a monumental ramp and through a single, narrow entrance on the north end. The plaza was large enough to accommodate hundreds of people; but in fact only privileged people had access to the upper platform, where ritualized violence such as human sacrifice was conducted.

The exterior walls of the platforms at Huaca de la Luna are covered with the remnants of mural paintings and sculptured reliefs, primarily of lines of warriors carrying shields and war clubs. Geometric designs decorate some of the walls in a checkerboard fashion, and a striking image of a two-headed serpent or a snarling stylized feline is rendered in several locations.

Huaca de la Luna and the Warrior Narrative

Huaca de la Luna has been associated with the Moche Warrior Narrative, largely on the strength of a discovery of 70 sacrificed warriors in a heap on Plaza 3A. The Warrior Narrative is an story told on murals and ceramic pot decorations at Moche sites throughout the period and region.

The 70 bodies were of adult males between the ages of 15 and 39; their bones exhibited evidence of unusually strong musculature and both old (healed) fractures and recent ones.

The warriors had been killed either by having their throats slit or by skull fracture; several had been dismembered. Fifty-two unfired portrait pots were found within the bone deposit, each portraying a captive individual. This deposit of bones and pots is considered strong evidence that the Warrior Narrative (and in particular the Sacrifice Ceremony, seen in mural paintings and fineline ceramic decorations, were not just legends but illustrated real ritual events in the life of the Moche.

Excavations at Huaca de la Luna

Investigations at Huaca de la Luna have been conducted since the beginning of the 20th century by archaeologists including Max Uhle, Alfred Kroeber and Rafael Larco Hoyle. Most recently, excavations at the site have been conducted since 1991 by the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo. Beginning in 1999, a Franco-Peruvian team led by Claude Chauchat has been excavated at the foot of the huaca, and discovered 57 graves.

Sources

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to the Moche civilization , and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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Chapdelaine C. 2011. Recent Advances in Moche Archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Research 19(2):191-231.

Donnan CB. 2010. Moche State Religion: A Unifying Force in Moche Political Organization. In: Quilter J, and Castillo LJ, editors. New Perspectives on Moche Political Organization. Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks. p 47-49.

Huchet JB, Deverly D, Gutierrez B, and Chauchat C. 2011. Taphonomic evidence of a human skeleton gnawed by termites in a Moche-civilisation grave at Huaca de la Luna, Peru. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 21(1):92-102.

Huchet JB, and Greenberg B.

2010. Flies, Mochicas and burial practices: a case study from Huaca de la Luna, Peru. Journal of Archaeological Science 37(11):2846-2856.

Uceda S. 2001. Investigations at Huaca de la Luna, Moche Valley: An example of Moche religious architecture. Pp 47-68 in Moche Art and Archaeology in Ancient Peru, Joanne Pillsbury, ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Verano JW. 2001. War and death in the Moche world: Osteological evidence and visual discourse. Pp 111-126 in Moche Art and Archaeology in Ancient Peru, Joanne Pillsbury, ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.