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The Architecture of Social Encounters: Plazas and Platforms in the Southern Moche State

Jorge Gamboa Velásquez, University of Montreal, Summer Fellow 2009/10

Access to the extensive documentation at the Dumbarton Oaks Library allowed me to make great progress in my work on the design variability of southern Moche public architecture. This research is an inter-valley comparative analysis of architectural planning and use of space in ceremonial centers built on the north coast of Peru between 500 and 750 AD. Carrying further a short version already published, I noticed that the regional diversity in configuration of Moche public buildings could be related to the fragmented nature of the sociopolitical landscape and to temporal hegemonic periods of some paramount centers. Pañamarca and Guadalupito, the major southernmost sites, did not emulate architectural canons from the sites of the Moche and Chicama valleys, such as Huaca de la Luna and Cao Viejo. These last two buildings became progressively similar in relation to their architectural planning and mural art. This process was impaired by the gradual empowering of the former over its counterpart at Chicama. Relations between both sites were probably complementary and competitive, as expresed by common material culture and distinctive iconographical programs. However, ca. 600 AD their interaction changed toward a stronger asymmetry in favor of Huaca de la Luna. The main results of my work will be published in a peer-reviewed journal in the near future.

My time at Dumbarton Oaks was made even more beneficial thanks to the exchange of ideas with colleagues studying pre-Columbian societies from different viewpoints. In this scholarly exchange lies the value of the Library—in addition to preserving bibliographical resources, it creates a space for the inception of interdisciplinary perspectives on the sociopolitical processes of ancient America.

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