Etude archeologique de la production artisanale au site Huacas de Moche, cote nord du Perou (French text)

July, 2005


Craft specialization is a major component in the organization of prehistoric complex societies. In the Moche society, which occupied the Peruvian coastal desert between the first and eighth centuries AD, craft specialist worked mostly ceramics, metals, textiles, and stones to create a great variety of practical or prestigious objects intended to the general population or made exclusively for the elites. This thesis focuses on craft specialization at Huacas de Moche, a site considered a major urban center in the political organization of the Moche society during its apogee phase. The research first aims at determining the organization of specialized craft production at Huacas de Moche. The second objective consists in identifying the roles of craft specialists in the functioning of the urban center. Archaeological data used in the research was first collected in various specialised workshops. Additional data comes from consumption contexts such as domestic compounds, monumental structures, and funerary contexts representing various levels of the social hierarchy at Huacas de Moche. The data collected for this research indicates that some goods produced at Huacas de Moche, especially those endowed with symbolic meaning, were crafted by specialists attached to elites, while other goods with a more utilitarian value were most likely produced by independent artisans. It also appears that attached craft production at Huacas de Moche was controlled directly by urban leaders at the head of small corporate groups or lineages, themselves submitted to the authority of the ruling elite. Craft specialists were disengaged from food production and worked in small and middle-scale workshops dispersed in urban domestic structures. Craft specialization at Huacas de Moche responded both to the needs of the general population and to the demands of the elite. The presence of artisans was necessary to the economic functioning of the city and to the adaptation of its occupants to the and environment. Craft specialization was above all highly significant in the sociopolitic and religious systems at Huacas de Moche and had a great importance in the development of Moche political complexity.