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Irrigation and the Origins of the Southern Moche State on the North Coast of Peru

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Brian R. Billman
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, 301 Alumni Bldg, CB 3115, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC 27599-31151 Email: bbillman@email.unc.edu
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Abstract

In this paper, I examine the role that irrigation played in the formation of the Southern Moche state in the Moche Valley, Peru. Specifically, I attempt to test Wittfogel and Steward's hydraulic model, which postulates that in certain arid environments, the managerial requirements of construction and maintenance of irrigation systems played a crucial role in the formation of centralized polities. I formulate and evaluate four hypotheses concerning the role of irrigation systems in the Moche Valley. Those hypotheses are then evaluated using settlement pattern data drawn from two surveys that cover the entire coastal section of the valley and provide information on 910 archaeological sites. Based on those data, I present a sequence of political development for the valley from the formation of the first autonomous village in the Late Preceramic period (2500–1800 B. C.) to the zenith of the Southern Moche state. Evaluation of the four hypotheses indicates that the managerial requirements of irrigation were relatively unimportant; rather, warfare, highland-coastal interaction, and political control of irrigation systems created opportunities for leaders to form a highly centralized, territorially expansive state sometime between A. D. 200 and 700.

En el presente artículo, examino el rol que jugó la irrigación en la formación del estado Moche Sureño en el valle de Moche, Perú. Específicamente, busco probar las hipótesis hidráulicas de Wittfogel y Steward, las cuales postulan que en ciertos medio ambientes áridos, la necesidad. de una administración de la construcción y el mantenimiento de los sistemas de irrigación jugaron un rol crucial en la formación de organizaciones centralizadas. Formulo y evalúo cuatro hipótesis tomando en consideración el rol de que de los sistemas de irrigación jugaron en la formación del estado Moche Sureño. Los datos del patrón de asentamiento son usados para evaluar las hipótesis. Los datos han sido recopilados a través de dos prospecciones, las cuales cubren toda la sección costeña del valle y brindan información de más de 910 sitios. Basado en dichos datos, presento una secuencia de desarrollo político para el valle desde la formación de la primera villa autónoma en el periodo Precerámico Tardío (2500–1800 a. C.) hasta el apogeo del estado Moche Sureño. Los análisis indican que los requisitos de una administración de la irrigación no tuvieron una importancia relativa en la formación del estado Moche Sureño; por el contrario los conflictos, la interacción costa-sierra, y el control político de los sistemas de irrigación crearon oportunidades para que los líderes formaran un estado altamente centralizado y territorialmente expansivo en algún momento entre los 200 y 700 d. C.

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Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2002

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