Moche Subsistence Timeline From Pozorski Term Paper

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This increase in seed size probably results from the continuous use of water through irrigation.

The Moche pottery also provides insights into the agriculture of the inland valleys. Nineteen races of maize are found on Moche jars. Nine of these include the Peruvian races Confite Iqueiio, Confite, Morocho, Kculli, Enano, Perla, Mochero, Pagaladroga, Huancavelicano, and Perlilla, which had evolved by a.D. 800. Ten races identified are found today only outside Peru from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. This dispersal suggests that the prehistoric ranges of these races were wider than is known in present times. In fact, the Moche pottery shows that most maize forms had a wider geographical distribution prehistorically than they have today. Ceramic maize replicas on Moche jars demonstrate evidence that the north coast of Peru was a major center for cultural exchange and connected the distant areas of South America perhaps extending as far as Central America (Dunn 1979). Other archaeological evidence shows Moche influences beyond north coast cultural boundaries (Donnan 1976).

However, the change from seashore subsistence to agriculture did not happen immediately. Definitely through the earlier periods and more than likely even through the latter times of occupation, the inhabitants of Caballo Muerto continued to rely heavily on marine products. In the meantime, the residents of Huaca Herederos and Chica were experimenting with sources of inland meat, such as the deer and then the camelids. This use of camelids as a means of subsistence is important, since such large domesticated animals can eventually provide a stable protein source for inland inhabitants that is as reliable as shellfish.

Overall, then, by the end of the Moche period, the agricultural subsistence system in all ten valleys is likely to have been based on the full contingent of Andean crops including major grain (maize); a number of roots and tubers (manioc, achira, sweet potato, j'cama, oca, ulluco); several pulses or legumes (jack bean, lima bean, peanut); several fruits (guava, avocado, cherimoya, pacay); two cucurbits (squash, the bottle gourd); a condiment (chili pepper); and cotton. Supplementing the agricultural resources were freshwater shrimp from the canals and river channels, shellfish from the beaches and shallow bays, sea lions from rookeries along the coastline, and a large variety of marine fish. Thus, despite the differences in natural resources between the semitropical far north and the more temperate south, the valleys constituting the Moche sphere were characterized by a pronounced redundancy of agricultural and marine resources from valley to valley throughout the 700-kilometer distance between Piura and Huarmey (Wilson 1999).

The form of subsistence had an impact on the development of the political unit and social stratification. Leaders did not have opportunity for economic control in the productive time of the Late Preceramic period. The rich marine environment had the potential to yield considerable surplus in this period. Any individual could use simple technologies to gain significant near-shore resources. Agricultural land was still abundant, and floodplain agriculture required slash-and-burn or simple irrigation techniques. Plus, the lack of any intensive armed conflict provided few situations for leaders to exercise coercive power. To maintain leader-follower relationships, the leaders most likely had to rely on personal charisma, ideology, and redistribution of surpluses produced by their own households or of their followers. Several features at Alto Salaverry may have been used for the storage of large quantities of dried fish and other marine goods (Billman 1996: 104-1-13,1999). Aspiring leaders may have relied on such surpluses to enhance their status and influence. These surpluses could also have been used to finance political activities, such as dances, feasts, and other ceremonies, which created obligatory relationships between leader-donors and follower-recipients. Yet, under such scenarios, leaders did not control any part of the means of production. They were only capable of generating surpluses that enhanced their status and helped them to form coalitions of followers.

This changed with the shift to irrigation in the Guaiiape phase, when aspiring leaders had better opportunities for the control and the accumulation of goods. Although the initial costs for building irrigation canals was higher than that of fishing and floodplain agriculture, once in production, irrigation systems dramatically increased yields. Therefore, with the organization and financing of irrigation construction systems, leaders perhaps could have extracted surpluses from canal users to fund additional political activity, such as monument construction, and to further enhance the socioeconomic status of their own households. Irrigation systems also provided more opportunities for leaders to control land and the flow of water. The political consequence was that in the Early Guaiiape phase political leaders not only could have controlled increased agricultural production, but also the distribution of land and water. With these newfound sources of economic power, they could finance the creation of centralized, hierarchical political organizations.


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