Many Faces of Death

Warfare, human sacrifice and mortuary practices of the elite in late pre-Hispanic northern Peru

Authored by: John W. Verano

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415842198
eBook ISBN: 9781315883366
Adobe ISBN: 9781134677979


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Advances in iconographic analysis and archaeological excavation have demonstrated that the Moche of ancient Peru (c. ad 1–900) sacrificed captives at their major ceremonial centres in rituals directed by priests impersonating Moche deities. Initially, the evidence was indirect — derived from new interpretations of Moche art based on the contents of elite tombs at the Moche sites of Sipan and San José de Moro (Alva and Donnan 1993; Donnan and Castillo 1994). But beginning in 1995, the first of a series of deposits of sacrificed captives were discovered at the Pyramids of Moche site (Figure 19.1) (Bourget 1997, 1998; Tufinio 2004; Verano et al. 2008). Isolated examples of sacrificed victims have also been found at other sites, such as El Brujo (Hamilton 2005; Mujica et al. 2007) and Dos Cabezas (Cordy-Collins 2001), but this chapter will focus on the two largest concentrations of sacrificial victims, excavated at the Pyramid of the Moon, one of the two large platform mounds that dominate the Pyramids of Moche site.

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