Drinking power: Moche tombs as sites of subjectification

Author(s): Mary Weismantel

Year: 2015


In the ethnohistoric record of the Andes, the bodies of the dead feature as key material objects through which living rulers claimed power over people and territory, especially irrigated land. This was true for the highland Inka, and also for coastal societies such as Chimu. In the archaeological record for earlier societies such as Moche, we see evidence for a similar complex of practices involving tombs, entombed bodies, and associated artifacts and offerings. These mortuary assemblages were not just significant for religious reasons or to memorialize the past, but as sites where living elites consolidated control over labor and resources. The ceramic effigies of elite human bodies placed in tombs materialized this political-economic message. The affordances of these ceramics as vessels, together with evidence that the tombs were open for long periods of time and were re-entered periodically, suggest that important drinking rituals held at tombs linked members of elite corporate kin groups across time: the dead, ruling and rising generations. These rites reinforced emergent and existing systems of stratification, and embodied lessons about inequality and inheritance that shaped elite understandings of themselves and their own bodies, and of the North Coast ecosystem and their right to rule it.

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Cite this Record

Drinking power: Moche tombs as sites of subjectification. Mary Weismantel. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396284)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;