The Archaeology

The Moche Civilization

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The Moche civilization flourished on the North Coast of Peru from circa AD 200 – 900, creating some of the Western Hemisphere’s most spectacular art and architecture. Moche society consisted mainly of laboring peasants and craftsmen who were ruled over by a small religious and military elite. This elite class directed the construction of massive pyramids, irrigation canals, and large quantities of fine ceramic and metal objects. Several different Moche states were located along the coast, with one of the largest centered on the Moche Valley, just outside what is now Trujillo. Although archaeological research on this fascinating and complex society is ongoing, very little remains known about Moche daily life and socioeconomic organization.


Cerro Leon Archaeological Complex

On and off for the past 12 years, the UNC Field School in Archaeology has been excavating the pre-Moche site of Cerro Leon. The occupation dates from the time of Christ and belonged to a large group of immigrants from the highlands. Data from this early time can tell us much about the technology, lifeways and trade networks in the valley during this formative period. Only 300 years later, on these same lands, the massive city-state of the Moche would rise to supra-regional power.


Endangered Sites

The realities of poverty and poor access to education and opportunity combined with the global black market for antiquities is fueling the destruction of archaeological sites at an unprecedented pace. With each tomb sacked, each pot sold, the history and cultural legacy of one of the world’s first empires is simply disappearing.

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Sites in the Middle Moche Valley are especially at risk as populations grow and pressures for physical space encroach upon them. These sites may be of the past but they can also be part of a sustainable and better future for the area residents.


Community Archaeology Reserves

MOCHE has created what it believes to be a sustainable solution to the intertwined problems of marginalized poverty and looting of archaeological sites in Peru. So far, we have had great success with the town and site of Cuidad de Dios and are now looking to expand to other sites in the valley with our model

The system works as follows:

MOCHE identifies a threatened site or area near a modern town and then proposes to the town that they protect and watch over the bounded area in exchange for a development project of their choosing. For every year that the reserve remains un-looted, further investment and infrastructure is provided.  We have proven that these partnerships are sustainable, safe and equitable to all involved.

MOCHE’s goals is to protect 10 threatened sites in the valley
in the next 10 yearssitoarch