The Early Intermediate Period Origins of Moche Civilization.




1.  Around 200 BC the Early Horizon with its central trait – the unifying Chavín ideology – came to an end.  On the north coast the attempt by threatened local rulers to retrench their ideological justification on transcendent religion rather than principles of local kinship, after being temporarily successful, finally failed and Chavín influence in portable art as manifested by the Cupisnique Style disappeared from the archaeological record.  In the succeeding Early Intermediate Period (ca. 200 BC-AD600) the north coast experienced an initial transitional period of disruption followed by consolidation and full florescence of regional civilization in the Moche archaeological culture. 


2.  The Salinar and Gallinazo “cultures” of this period were in all probability expressions of north coast population.  There is almost no indication that there may have been population replacement at this time and the material culture of the two cultural groups shares many features drawn from the coastal tradition.

3.  It appears that this final end of the long Initial Period and its Early Horizon extension occurred in the context of social and maybe political unrest.  The immediately succeeding Salinar archaeological culture (ca 200BC – 0), although clearly standing in the tradition of north coast cultural development, displays changes in material culture, socio/political organization and settlement distribution, that indicate a transitional period of insecurity before stability returned with the Gallinazo archaeological culture [0-AD 200 (600)].

4.  The Salinar Period was characterized by several features that suggests that social disruption and political unrest accompanied the end of the Early (Chavín) Horizon:

- Incipient urbanism with the concentration of valley populations into large densely built settlements. - Unprecedented concern with corporate management and control of production and distribution.         - Settlement pattern change from valley-wide to concentration in defensible valley necks.

5.  In the southern valleys of the North Coast like Virú and Santa much of the population abandoned their fields nearest the coast and moved further inland to defensible inland ridge-top locations.   In the Moche Valley this process resulted in a significant portion of the population congregating in a single densely occupied site, Cerro Arena, which, with its corporate architecture and specialized storage buildings was the first example of a north coast urban settlement.

6.  In most areas the conflict indicated by the changed settlement patterns appears to reflect local raiding among north coastal groups.  Only in the far south does the intrusion of a highland group - the Recuay - show foreign invasion.




1.  By about 0 BC/AD the transitional period of unrest ended with the Gallinazo period.  The architectural and ceramic styles of the Gallinazo phase, while distinct in some aspects, show clear similarities to the earlier north coast tradition, the Salinar styles, and the succeeding Moche archaeological culture for which it was the immediate predecessor.   Gallinazo, like Salinar and Moche should be regarded as diverse expressions of the material culture of north coast peoples rather than of different groups.

2.  In the Gallinazo period the pre-Salinar pattern of valley-wide settlement returned, population increased in size on the north coast, and in some valleys the area of land under cultivation reached a size not again paralleled in the pre-European epoch. Thus this was a time of stability and consolidation of the strategies of socio-political integration that were brought to their full fruition in the succeeding Moche period.  Indeed the first real centralized multi-valley polity with its center at the Gallinazo Site in the Virú Valley may well have developed in the later Gallinazo period, heralding the way for an even greater political development in the Moche.

3.  Settlement configuration displays a pattern of large “ceremonial” centers clustered around huge freestanding platforms of unprecedented size, supported by a rural settlement of small villages.  This sets the stage for the subsequent period.      

4.  Around AD 200 Gallinazo style pottery and art began to give way to Moche style in parts of the coast, denoting change of elite material culture and the ideology of power.  However, this did not happen abruptly.  Indeed along the far south coast, south of the Moche Valley, Gallinazo continued unhindered for 200 years while further north this archaeological culture may well have co-existed with later Moche through the entire Early Intermediate Period (until ca. AD 600).  It appears that Gallinazo, like Moche as seen in the archaeological record, was the material expression of a particular ruling group and its symbolism of authority.  At the lower ranks of society material culture as seen by utilitarian items, residential pattern, architectural techniques etc, was identical strongly suggesting a single “ethnic” identity.  So the Early North Coast Intermediate Period was one of successive and sometimes contemporary (but different) political orders, sometimes living in peace, sometimes in conflict.  There was not a tidy succession of “Cultures.”