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The Structural Paradox: Moche Culture as Political Ideology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Garth Bawden*
Affiliation:
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, and Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131

Abstract

In this article I demonstrate the utility of an historical study of social change by examining the development of political authority on the Peruvian north coast during the Moche period through its symbols of power. We too often equate the material record with “archaeological culture,” assume that it reflects broad cultural reality, and interpret it by reference to general evolutionary models. Here I reassess Moche society within its historic context by examining the relationship between underlying social structure and short-term processes that shaped Moche political formation, and reach very different conclusions. I see the “diagnostic” Moche material record primarily as the symbolic manifestation of a distinctive political ideology whose character was historically constituted in an ongoing cultural tradition. Aspiring rulers used ideology to manipulate cultural principles in their interests and thus mediate the paradox between exclusive power and holistic Andean social structure which created the dynamic for change. A historic study allows us to identify the symbolic and ritual mechanisms that socially constituted Moche ideology, and reveals a pattern of diversity in time and space that was the product of differential choice by local rulers, a pattern that cannot be seen within a theoretical approach that emphasizes general evolutionary or materialist factors.

En este artículo demuestro la ventaja de un estudio histórico sobre la integración y el cambio social, a través de un examen del carácter del poder político en la costa norte del Perú durante el período Moche. Con demasiada frecuencia equiparamos el registro material con “las culturas arqueológicas”; asumimos que éste refleja la realidad cultural amplia y la interpretamos con referencia a modelos evolutivos generales. En este artículo presento una evaluación de la arqueología Moche dentro de su contexto histórico, al examinar la relación entre la estructura social subyacente y procesos de corta duración que modelaron la formación política Moche, y llego a conclusiones muy diferentes. Veo a la arqueología Moche solamente como la manifestación de una ideología política distintiva cuyo carácter fue históricamente constituida dentro de una tradición cultural continua. El elemento que dio forma a la ideología Moche fue su cimiento básicamente andino, establecido en el contexto regional de la costa norteña. Los aspirantes a gobernantes emplearon la ideología para manipular los principios estructurales tradicionales en su propio interés y así mediar la paradoja entre el poder exclusivo y la estructura social holística andina que constituyó la dinámica de cambio. Un estudio histórico nos permite identificar los mecanismos rituales y simbólicos que socialmente constituyeron la ideología Moche, y revela un modelo de diversidad en tiempo y espacio que no se puede ver dentro de una perspectiva teórica basada en la teoría evolutiva general.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 1995

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References

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