Purdue University Fort Wayne Campus News

Richard Sutter co-authors paper in Current Anthropology

The paper “Population Structure during the Demise of the Moche (550–850 AD): Comparative Phenetic Analyses of Tooth Trait Data from San José de Moro, Perú,” co-authored by Richard Sutter, professor and chair of anthropology, was recently published in Current Anthropology.

The paper deals with the impacts that climate change had on prehistoric state collapse and population dispersals.

From the abstract:

The demise of the Moche (AD 200 – 850) – a pristine state that flourished on the north coast of Peru – coincided with an extended period of drought between AD 650 – 730. In the Jequetepeque Valley, the Moche polity there began to balkanize along the major branches of pre-existing irrigation canals and people took refuge in newly constructed fortifications.

Our analyses indicate that during this time of political upheaval, adjacent Cajamarca highlanders from the east began to migrate into the valley and likely placed additional demands on the already diminished irrigation water, thereby exacerbating political tensions that already existed among the local Moche.

In search of more reliable sources of water, these foreigners formed alliances through trade and marriage with some the existing Moche factions, such as the priestess cult at San José de Moro. With the arrival of Cajamarca refugees, exotic ceramics begin appearing alongside local ceramics as part of Moche elites’ grave offerings at San José de Moro.

Following the Moche’s political collapse, a continued influx of nonlocal people contributed to cultural hybridization and a genetically more heterogeneous population during the post-Moche period in the Jequetepque Valley.