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Moche Artwork Tells the Story of Bloody Sacrifices

Although the Moche did not leave behind a writing system, their artwork tells the story of gruesome sacrificial rites, some of which occurred within the walls of the Huaca Cao Viejo pyramid at El Brujo, a site on the north coast of Peru. Some of the scenes depict warriors who were bound with nooses and led to a priest adorned in gold to have their throats slit. A priestess is also shown catching the spilled blood in a golden goblet for the priest to drink. Archaeologists learn about the Moche by studying decorative murals like the ones discovered on the plaza walls of Huaca Cao Viejo. Bones of sacrificed victims, who were buried under some of its walls, suggest that the depicted rituals actually took place, and some of the bones indicate that the prisoners were tortured before meeting their grisly end.

Text Source: Block, Ira, and Peter Gwin. "Peruvian Temple of Doom." National Geographic Magazine July 2004: 102+. National Geographic Virtual Library.
Photograph by:
  • Ira Block/National Geographic Creative