Recent archaeological research in the Southern Jequetepeque Valley, Peru, has revealed that the coastal massif of Cerro Cañoncillo was venerated as a powerful huaca (sacred entity) from the Late Formative into the Late Horizon Period. The main objective of the article is to argue that some of the major religious structures of the Late Formative site of Jatanca (500–100 bc) and the Moche ceremonial center of Huaca Colorada (ad 650–850) were built as direct simulators of the distinctive cerro in question. However, a comparison of the larger archaeological landscape of these two neighbouring centres permits a reconstruction of the changing political context and religious significance of the Cerro Cañoncillo cult, allowing us to move beyond generic generalizations of Andean religious architecture as mimetic mountains. An important goal of the article is to demonstrate that attention to the vagaries of ecology and place are essential for the interpretation of historical differences in past religious ideologies. Ultimately, an exploration of the changing mimetic faculty of monumental architecture at Cerro Cañoncillo will permit a critical reappraisal of the storied concept of the ‘ceremonial centre’ that should be of comparative value to archaeologists working in other regions of the world.
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