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Understanding the Moche Civilization and Moche Culture of Peru


The fascinating and highly-artistic Moche Civilization and culture existed as a people living in the lower river valley along the North Peruvian coastline.

Moche Culture and civlization Map Peru
They were very skilled artists and potters. Their wide ranging artistic cultures and traditions are attributed to the river valley environment, which was rich with metals and clay. 

Unfortunately, their contribution was restricted to only their artistic expression.  Because they had no predominant written language, no written records were kept by the people. The only information that exists about the history and culture of the Moche culture is what has been gleaned by their extensive artistry.


While "Mochica" has been used in place of Moche by people describing this culture, the word "Mochica" actually refers to a particular dialect. This dialect, however, was not proven to be the dialect of the Moche Civilization and culture.

Art and Culture

Amazingly expressive, the ceramic art designs of Moche pottery were mostly based on mythology, ceremony and their daily life and depicted varied scenes that ranged from fishing and hunting to religion, combat and sexual activities.

Moche Pottery Portrait

In the Moche Civilization and culture, priests and warriors were strictly honored and people in the culture obeyed their word.

Moche pottery art duck

The artisans came next in their order; farmers and fishermen lived farther away. Servants, beggars and slaves lived the farthest from the temples and pyramids.

Moche pottery culture art duck

Moche Pottery Duck

Moche civilization and culture, Moche pottery yucca

On the pots they created, the artisans represented the authority figures by crafted scenes of punishment.

Some of the Moche pottery displayed severe punishments such as mutilation and even death for those who disobeyed the authorities.

Some of their artwork depicts entire scenes of sacrifice, slavery, their God in what they believed to be his human form as well as his spider form.

The Moche Civilization and culture is represented in many museums with a wealth of Moche pottery. Their most impressive and stunning artworks were displayed on monumental pyramids.

Religion in the Moche Civilization and Culture

Priests were considered the most important people in this culture, followed by the warriors. These people lived closest to the beautiful pyramids and temples.

The Moche people of Peru believed that human sacrifice was mandatory if they were to be blessed with many of the necessities of life.

Their victims used in the sacrifice of humans were normally retrieved after a battle with opposing civilizations.

The human skeletal remains that were found showed that sacrifice was a very significant part of their religious rituals.

The ritualistic practice of human sacrifice was likely carried out by participants in costumes and possibly included the ingestion of blood. To their credit, the Moche Civilization did not sacrifice women or children.

Downfall of the Moche Civilization and Moche Culture

Many theories, some quite inventive, as to the reasons for the fall of the Moche Civilization, have been presented over the past century.

However, the sudden demise of the Moche civilization and culture seems to have been demystified and it offers an explanation for their ritual of human sacrifice. It has to do with weather conditions.

The phenomenon of the well-known El Niño, which brings alternating periods of flooding and drought, caused the people persistent woes with their harvesting and fishing skills. The extreme weather conditions likely shattered the Moche society.

As a result, they lost faith in their religious beliefs and their ability to perform human sacrifices to earn better conditions for hunting and fishing.

In spite of their efforts to please the gods, the rains still came, followed with severe droughts. The weather destroyed their crops.

Read more about the climage change effects on the Moche Civilization.

The Legacy of the Moche Civilization and Culture

Left behind from the Moche culture are some very impressive sites that are representative of their skilled archaeological abilities.

Moche pottery is some of the most beautiful pottery in the world. The pottery created by the Moche People is represented in museums in Peru. The recovered pieces of Moche pottery and other objects of Moche art are outstanding in design.

Moche Civlilization David and Lin Recommend

Inside-Peru Recommends:

For a really good analysis of Moche art, archaeology, and visual language, we recommend the excellent book Moche Art and Visual Culture in Ancient Peru.

Here, author Margaret Jackson analyzes Moche ceremonial architecture and ceramics and presents some ideas of how these were a means of communication. That the Moche used a visual language that had its influence on other cultures of ancient Peru is widely accepted among researchers of Peruvian civilizations.

 Margaret Jackson, a faculty fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, Stanford University, gives us an Moche Civilization and Cultureapproach that combines archaeology and the study of language with art history and how the Moche created a visual culture.

 Jackson looks at the symbolism of Moche art as a form of communication, the social mechanisms that produced it, and how it served to maintain the Moche social fabric.

Moche Art and Visual Culture in Ancient Perumoche civilization.

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