At the Larco museum they had a section devoted to Moche warfare and ceremonial human sacrifice. Flourishing on the north coast of Peru between 100 and 800 CE, the Moche created ceramic vessels richly decorated with detailed, fineline paintings that relate complex tales. The surviving ceramics provide a wealth of information about Moche society and iconography. Moche artists frequently depicted warriors and warrior activities, and hundreds of these depictions can be found in museums and private collections today. The combat they depict appears to be ceremonial rather than militaristic. There are no depictions of warriors attacking castles or fortified settlements, or killing, capturing, or mistreating women or children. Moreover, there is no portrayal of equipment or tactics that involved teams of warriors acting in close coordination. We see no regular formations of troops like Greek phalanxes, or siege instruments whose operation would have involved trained squads of individuals. Although there are a few depictions of two warriors fighting a single opponent, the essence of Moche combat appears to have been the expression of individual valor, in which the warriors engage in one-on-one combat. Only rarely were combatants killed; the goal appears to have been to capture the opponent for ritual sacrifice.
I was at the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru and saw these beautiful ceramics and pots, which inspired me to research this interesting and influential culture. The Moche civilization (alternatively, the Mochica culture, Early Chimu, Pre-Chimu, Proto-Chimu, etc.) flourished in northern Peru with its capital near present-day Moche and Trujillo, from about 100 AD to 800 AD, during the Regional Development Epoch. While this issue is the subject of some debate, many scholars contend that the Moche were not politically organized as a monolithic empire or state. Rather, they were likely a group of autonomous polities that shared a common elite culture, as seen in the rich iconography and monumental architecture that survive today. Moche history may be broadly divided into three periods: the emergence of the Moche culture in Early Moche (100–300 AD), its expansion and florescence during Middle Moche (300–600 AD), and the urban nucleation and subsequent collapse in Late Moche (500–750 AD). Moche portrait vessels are ceramic vessels featuring highly individualized and naturalistic representations of human faces that are unique to the Moche culture of Peru. These portrait vessels are some of the few realistic portrayals of humans found in the Precolumbian Americas.