Hidden Labor: Exploring Food, Gender, and Ritual in the Prehispanic Moche Valley of North Coastal Peru

Author(s): Dana Bardolph; Brian Billman; Jesús Briceño

Year: 2018


Archaeologists have successfully used spatial analyses of different contexts (elite/non-elite, ritual/domestic, public/private, etc.) to examine the intersection of food-related activities with status, political economy, gender, ritual, and the public/private division. In this paper, I consider the intersections of food processing, ritual, and gendered labor through an examination of paleoethnobotanical data from Cerro León, a Gallinazo/Early Moche phase (A.D. 1-300) highland colony in the Moche Valley of north coastal Peru. A variety of ancestor rituals, work parties, and other large-scale commensal events occurred in large public spaces in high status compounds at Cerro León. But where did food preparation occur for these events, and who was likely responsible for such preparation? Employing intrasite spatial analysis, I explore the movements through various spaces, public and private, that provided opportunities for social interaction or restrictions on visibility and community integration. Drawing on archaeobotanical and ethnohistorical evidence, I argue that household members (likely women) primarily prepared food in private behind-the-scenes contexts for supra-household ritual events and public displays. These women may have prepared for public events totally apart from, and without being included, in such events. This consideration of ‘hidden’ labor sheds light on a frequently overlooked aspect of ritual and food production.

Cite this Record

Hidden Labor: Exploring Food, Gender, and Ritual in the Prehispanic Moche Valley of North Coastal Peru. Dana Bardolph, Brian Billman, Jesús Briceño. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 445182)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -82.441; min lat: -56.17 ; max long: -64.863; max lat: 16.636 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21025