My dissertation research focuses on illuminating the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of cuisine and life among the Moche people who resided in the Jequetepeque Valley on the north coast of Peru in the Late Moche period (AD 500-750). I am conducting a comparative study of food data recovered from excavations in Area 35 of San José de Moro, an elite burial ground and ceremonial center with evidence of elaborate rituals and feasting, and households in the habitation area of lower Cerro Chepén, a large settlement located beneath the fortified, hilltop homes and ceremonial/administrative buildings of the site’s elite residents. These faunal and paleoethnobotanical data will be used, in conjunction with multiple lines of evidence (ceramic, lithic, architectural, etc.) to gain a better understanding of the mundane and exceptional aspects of Moche life among rich and poor.
My primary methodological interest as of late has been working on the issue of dry-screening vs. flotation in dry, sandy conditions typical of desert environments and the effect that choice of processing method has on the recovery of plant data and eventually, interpretation. Along with Christine A. Hastorf and Anita. G. Cook (Catholic University of America), botanical remains recovered from both screening and flotation at the Middle Horizon site of Casa Vieja in the Ica Valley, Peru were analyzed. While small, weedy seeds seem to fare better in flotation samples, larger plant remains such as maize cobs were overwhelmingly present in screening samples. I am also currently pursuing this issue in my own research in the Jequetepeque Valley, and am particularly interested in establishing the differences in recovery rates for carbonized and desiccated plant remains using screening and flotation.
Christine Hastorf and I are also currently engaged in a project concerning changes in chile pepper (Capsicum spp.) seeds through time at the Preceramic sites of Huaca Prieta and Paredones, Peru. By conducting a morphometric study of the archaeological seeds as well as modern seeds from the 5 major domesticates present in Peru today (C. annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, C. frutescens, C. pubescens) and their wild cousins, we hope to establish which Capsicum species were present and when. We also hope to gain a better understanding into the domestication of chile pepper, a plant with documented significance to the peoples of the Andes, and its use at Huaca Prieta and Paredones.