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Archaism or Tradition?: The Decapitation Theme in Cupisnique and Moche Iconography

  • Alana Cordy-Collins (a1)
Abstract

The Cupisnique (ca. 1000-200 B. C.) and the Moche (ca. 100 B. C.-A. D. 800) inhabited much of the same territory of Peru's north coast in Precolumbian times, and both are noted for their extraordinary and distinct artistry. Despite the distinctiveness of the two art styles, various similarities between them have been noted. One investigation concluded that archaistic copying was the explanation for the similarities (Rowe 1971). In contrast, the present study arrives at the opposite interpretation: that the Moche knew the symbolic content of the earlier images and retained it. Decapitation is a concept that is essentially pan-Andean and, therefore, it is not surprising that both the Cupisnique and the Moche subscribed to it. What is surprising, particularly in view of the universality of the idea, is that both groups employed virtually the same cast of characters. This paper demonstrates a continuity of belief between Cupisnique and Moche societies through an investigation of the Decapitator theme.

Los cupisnique (ca. 1000-200 A. C.) y los moche (ca. 100 A. C.-800 D. C.) habitaron en gran medida el mismo territorio de la costa norte del Perú en la época precolombina. Ambos pueblos son notorios por lo extraordinario y peculiar de su arte. A pesar de lo distintivo de sus estilos artísticos, también se han señalado varias similitudes. Rowe (1971) explicó esas similitudes resaltando el arcaismo del arte Moche. En contraste, el presente estudio llega a la conclusión opuesta: que los moche conocían el contenido simbólico de las imágenes tempranas y lo retuvieron. La decapitación es un concepto básicamente pan-andino y, por siguiente, no es una sorpresa que ambos los cupisnique y los moche lo utilizaran. Lo que sorprende particularmente a luz de la universalidad de la idea, es que ambos grupos utilizaran el mismo reparto de personajes. Este trabajo demuestra una continuidad de las creencias entre las sociedades cupisnique y moche a través del estudio del tema de la decapitación.

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Latin American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 1045-6635
  • EISSN: 2325-5080
  • URL: /core/journals/latin-american-antiquity
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