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The Transformation of Political Frontier Landscapes in the Upper Moche Valley of Peru

Patrick Mullins, University of Pittsburgh, Junior Fellow 2018–2019

I made significant progress in my analysis and writing on prehistoric settlement patterns and political frontiers in the Upper Moche Valley chaupiyunga of northern Peru. Already a geographic borderland between the Andean highlands and the Pacific coastline, the chaupiyunga of the Moche Valley also served as the eastern political frontier of the Southern Moche political tradition (200–900) and the Chimú Empire (900–1470). Dumbarton Oaks provided me with key resources that helped me confirm ceramic chronologies and synthesize previous research in the region. I also conducted important geospatial analyses that allowed me to identify several legacies that shaped this frontier landscape over three millennia of human occupation (1600 BCE–1470 CE). First, the earliest monumental complex in the region served as an anchor upon which several reoccupying communities could weather multiple political regimes by tying themselves to a powerful past. Second, coastal peoples and polities seemed to have been bound together over time, as traces of Chimú authority mapped onto the later remnants of an earlier Moche mound-center. Finally, Moche canal construction opened up a previously sparse frontier landscape that then became hotly contested by highland and coastal groups, possibly sparking several centuries of endemic conflict.