(Re)Defining the Moche State: A Critical Examination of the Socio-political Organization of the Moche Culture


Author/Creator ORCID




Hood College Department of Art & Archaeology


Hood College Departmental Honors

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States


Attempts to classify the Moche into rigid socio-political categories have long been a central facet of discourse among scholars of the Moche culture. The central questions I originally intended to address in this paper were as follows: Were the Mochica a loosely organized confederation of political entities linked by ideology and political alliances? Or were they a centralized state-level society that ruled from the Moche valley? However, as I progressed further into my research I realized that the attempt to classify the Moche into any of these rigid categories was infeasible. Instead, the current array of archaeological data and academic research suggests that the Moche fluctuated among many models of political organization throughout its existence. What can be discerned are two regional entities, distinguished by a north-south division, that maintained some degree of interconnectedness at various points throughout the Moche era. The concept of a centralized Moche state can be best distinguished in the south, specifically within the Moche-Chicama Valleys. However, the contrary is true in the northern region, wherein varying types of political organization occurred over time.