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The Fall of the Moche: A Critique of Claims for South America’s First State

  • Jeffrey Quilter (a1) and Michele L. Koons (a2)
Abstract

The Moche archaeological culture of the North Coast of Peru has been reified into a political system and claimed as the first state in South America. While some recent scholarship has reduced the size of the proposed state, the idea of Moche as a distinct political, social, or ethnic entity remains. In this article we demonstrate that even by the “classic” neoevolutionary theory of the 1960s—1980s the criteria for Moche statehood were not met. We suggest that neoevolutionary models for one or more Moche states are inadequate for understanding an archaeological culture that endured for more than six centuries, and we offer suggestions for directions for future research.

La cultura arqueológica Moche, de la costa norte del Perú, ha sido concebida como un sistema político y declarada el primer estado en Sudamérica. Aún cuando recientes investigaciones han reducido el tamaño del supuesto estado moche, la conceptualización de los moche como una entidad política, social y étnica distinguible aún subsiste. En este artículo demostramos cómo, aún bajo los estándares “clásicos” del neoevolucionismo de las décadas del los años 1960s a los 1980s, nunca se cumplieron los criterios para considerar a los moche como un estado. Sugerimos que los modelos neoevolucionistas son inadecuados para definir a los moche como uno o varios estados y para entender una cultura arqueológica que se extendió por más de 600 años. Finalmente, of recemos sugerencias para futuras investigaciones.

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