Moche Art and Visual Culture in Ancient Peru

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Overview

Scattered throughout their coastal homelands, the remains of impressive artworks produced by the Moche of northern Peru survive. These works include ceremonial centers extensively decorated with murals, as well as elaborate and sophisticated ceramic vessels, textiles, and metalwork, that serve to visually represent an ancient American culture that developed a complex, systematized pictorial code used to communicate narratives, sets of ideas, and ideological constructs.

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Overview

Scattered throughout their coastal homelands, the remains of impressive artworks produced by the Moche of northern Peru survive. These works include ceremonial centers extensively decorated with murals, as well as elaborate and sophisticated ceramic vessels, textiles, and metalwork, that serve to visually represent an ancient American culture that developed a complex, systematized pictorial code used to communicate narratives, sets of ideas, and ideological constructs.

In this study, Margaret Jackson analyzes Moche ceremonial architecture and ceramics to propose the workings of a widely understood visual language. Using an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates archaeology and linguistics with art history and studies of 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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826343659
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
  • Publication date: 1/26/2009
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 889,412
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret A. Jackson is a faculty fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, Stanford University.

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  • Posted February 25, 2009

    pictorial communication of pre-Columbian civilization

    "The Moche of the North Coast of Peru (ca. A.D. 100-800) provide an excellent example of an ancient American culture that developed an elaborate, systematized pictorial code." Jackson, a fellow associated with Stanford University, uses the latest research, methodological tools, and ideas in pre-Columbian pictography to extensively explore this "example" of the fascinating type of pictorial language. While not going so far as to proffer new or revolutionary perspectives, the book records and pictures a wealth of recent archaeological finds. With this, Jackson also explains and analyzes details of these and relates such details to aspects of the Moche culture. The work is thus a fresh look at this major, highly-developed pre-Columbian South American culture.

    The Moche preceded both the Incas of mountainous Peru and the Aztecs of Central America. Jackson's study is so broad and intricate that it implicitly presents a picture of the major native civilizations of Central and South America. The Moche did not exert influence on these later civilizations from conquest or expansion. Rather, the Moche represent one of the earliest highly-developed pictorial languages related to the particular type of native cultures that grew in the southern Americas. That similarities among these cultures, some quite distant from one another and separated by centuries, are not explained by conquest or expansion or migration opens up intriguing questions about roots, attributes, circumstances, and histories of the different civilizations.

    The archaeological finds are mostly ceramics. The author concentrates on these while at times referring to other artifacts. The complex pictures of the ceramics are not decorative (as with Greek vases for the most part even though many of the pictures represent mythical figures), but is instead a means of communication. The Moche "ritual-use ceramics [along with] monumental arts, in the form of imposing architecture [e. g., pyramids] with oversized murals and friezes...played critical parts in the society's communicative strategy." One evidence of the integral relationship between the Moche pictorial language and the culture is changes the language underwent as the culture underwent fundamental changes for unknown reasons. The identification between the language and the culture ebbed away as the pictorializations became "increasingly repetitive, geometric, and abstract" as Moche culture moved into what is known as its Chimu phase about 800AD.

    Jackson's absorbing and rewarding study gives a good foundation in Native American studies which carries beyond its particular topic. While the material is scholarly, meticulous, and scientific in parts, the related more anthropological and occasional sociological-like material meet the interests of general readers.

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