Reimagining Pre-Moche Maize Agriculture

BARDOLPH, Dana - University of California, Santa Barbara

Understanding the relationship between maize agriculture and state development is a question that has long resonated with archaeological research interests. This paper examines the role of maize agriculture in north coastal Peru during the Early Intermediate Period (EIP, 400 B.C. to A.D. 800), prior to the development of a regional Moche political economy. Andean scholars have broadly discussed prehistoric subsistence strategies on the Peruvian north coast in relation to competition over intensifiable agricultural resources, increases in social stratification, and the development of complex political organization preceding the consolidation of the Southern Moche polity. However, the majority of these discussions take place in the absence of systematically collected subsistence data.  I discuss recent paleoethnobotanical data from the Moche Valley and neighboring valleys, with the goal of illuminating various subsistence strategies that may have influenced Moche sociopolitical development. Maize, a highly productive and storable crop, likely served as an important precursor to state development during the EIP.