With National Science Foundation support, Dr. George Gumerman IV and his colleagues will conduct one season of archaeological excavation at the site of El Brujo, located on the arid northern coast of Peru. The El Brujo complex, over a square kilometer in size, consists of a series of pyramids and associated domestic architecture dating from approximately 4000 BC through colonial times. The site contains a substantial component referable to the Moche culture (AD 200-800) that is spatially segregated from earlier and later components. The presence of monumental architecture and associated domestic zones suggests that the site probably served as a major political and ceremonial center. Prior work at the site by both Gumerman and other groups indicates that organic materials including textiles and botanical remains are remarkably well preserved. This amazing preservation offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore specific aspects of Moche foodways.

The Moche peoples occupied the northern coast of Peru and are archaeologically significant for several reasons. It is possible to trace their development for over a millennium from a simple level of village organization to complex primitive state. Lacking writing and situated in a harsh and unpredictable desert environment the Moche were able to unite a large population scattered over separate isolated river valleys into a single political entity. Through a complex irrigation system they produced sufficient surplus to erect monumental pyramids and other ceremonial structures. Archaeologists wish to understand how this culture developed and was maintained. Dr. Gumerman has proposed a unique approach and plans to focus on how food moved through the social system. He will study not only production of both plant and animal species, but also their distribution through the social system, consumption and final discard. In this way it will be possible to address issues such as the development of social hierarchy and ceremonial/ritual behavior. He will excavate a series of Moche households to collect and analyze not only flora and fauna but also lithic and ceramic remains. On this basis it will also be possible to address questions such as status differentiation.

This research is important for several reasons. It will increase our understanding of the development of social complexity. It will shed new light on an important archaeological culture and will also help to develop an analytic approach of potential use in many parts of the world.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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Northern Arizona University
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