Monday, June 17, 2013

History Mystery: Sipan City Of Lords Of Gold And Sacrifice -2

Gold was the most highly valued metal. Gold-working had been a local industry in the upper valley for centuries before the development of the Moche culture. An alloy of gold and copper, known as tumbaga, was also popular among many Andean cultures. The Moche finished objects made of this alloy with depletion gilding: they treated the surface of the objects with acid, which removed the surface copper and left a layer of pure gold in its place. To gild plain copper objects, they used a more sophisticated method. They immersed the objects in a solution of gold, water, minerals, and salts, which was then heated. A thin layer of gold formed on top of the copper. Further heating of the copper object bonded the gold to its surface. The Moche were not only skilled in metalwork; they were also fine potters. Huge collections of pots were placed in burials at Span and elsewhere in Moche territory – created to order as part of the funerary preparations.

Many Andean cultures illustrated aspects of daily life on their pottery, and the Moche brought this art form to its highest pinnacle. They decorated their pots with fine line drawings of subjects from everyday scenes, such as weaving and hunting. On others processions of musicians play trumpets, bells, rattles, and panpipes. Some pots reveal the Moche’s sea-going activities; the sea was a major source of food for them. Fishing boats made of tied reed bundles complete with fishing lines, nets, fish, and fishermen, are a common theme. A number of vessels were stamped with designs in relief. Others were created as three-dimensional sculptures, loosely based on the shape of a bottle or bowl.

Many Mooche pots depict ritual scenes of sacrifice, funerary rites, and warfare. Some show battles fought in the desert regions between the river valley settlements. These encounters usually took the form of a series of single combats between warriors, in which the aim was not to maim or kill an opponent, nut to stun him with a blow from a mace-topped war club. The victor would then strip and bind the loser, and publicly parade him as his captive. Ultimately, these captives of ritual warfare were sacrificed. In an important religious ceremony, their throats were cut by a priest, who caught the blood in a goblet.

 A second priest, wearing an owl headdress and attended by a priestess, offered the goblet to the ruler, who drank the blood. The bodies of the sacrificial victims were then dismembered, and strings were tied around their heads and limbs so that they could be hung up as trophies. Until recently, archaeologists studying these scenes suggested that they depicted mythological events involving deities. But the discoveries at Sipan tied them firmly to the real world. Severed hands and feet found near the Sipan mounds are evidence of sacrificial rites. In many ritual scenes on pottery, sacrifices and offerings are shown taking place at sacred mounds. One common scene shows priests offerings Spondylous shells to a supreme warrior priest seated within a pavilion on top of a huaca. The dress and accoutrements of the warrior priest in these scenes match those found with the body in the first tomb at Sipan – including his sceptre, headdress, weapons, and waist bells. The man in the second tomb, with his owl headdress, wore the dress of the bird priest who presented the goblet of blood to his ruler. A female burial excavated more recently, at San Jose de Moro in the adjacent Jequetepeque valley, closely matches the tomb was probably the warrior priest in an earlier guise, before the details the details of the ceremony had fully evolved. The sacred mounds of the Moche symbolized the mountains which played a vital role in South American religion. The Andes, as the source of essential natural resources, were revered by all the cultures who lived in the regions near to them.

Rainfall was rare in the Moche region – and the rivers fed by the mountains were the only source of fresh water. The inhabitants of the valleys constructed sophisticated irrigation networks to take water to their fields. Platforms were set among the fields for the officials who supervised agricultural work. It was agricultural labour and its produce that supported the hierarchy of nobles as well as the craftsmen who made metalwork and pottery. At the apex of society was the supreme ruler, attired in death as the warrior lord. The sea also played a key role in Moche cosmology. Its significance is demonstrated by an artifact found in the burial of the old lord at Sipan – a golden crab with a human face and a pectrol in the shape of an octopus. The Humboldt current running through the south-eastern Pacific provides one of the richest harvests of marine food in the world, but the ocean also harbours fearsome powers of destruction. The devastating storms and upset weather patterns brought periodically by the El Nino phenomenon still spell ruin along the Pacific coast. Natural disasters – El Nino, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, drought, and floods – were always part of South American life. But between AD 562 and 594, a period of sever drought brought enormous changes to the Moche realms. Ravaged by famine and disease, the population plummeted, and massive coastal dunes built up, driving the remaining population inland. The irrigation networks on which agriculture depended were disrupted and new systems had to be created. Warfare, previously confined to ritual combat, developed into something more deadly – real aggression over natural resources. Fortifications sprang up, and communities hoarded produce to tide them over during difficult years. By AD 800, this fight for survival had fractured the territory of the Moche into numerous principalities, and the cultural unity once enjoyed by the river valley kingdoms became buried deep in the past with their glorious ancestors.

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