The Salinar Culture

The Salinar culture (200 B.C.-200 A.D.) that reigned on the north coast of Peru meant a short transition period between the Cupisnique and the Moche cultures. Continuity can be seen in ceramics, especially. Socially, the Salinar period was unsettled. Old fields were abandoned, fortified refuges were built and the size of population centres was increased in the hope of security provided by mass power. It has been said that the reason for the unrest of the era was the end of easily-cultivated land, when a strife over land would have led to confrontation.

The largest of the known Salinar centres was Cerro Arena situated in the Moche valley. This city situated on a ridge covered an area of 2,5 square kilometres in ancient times, and within its borders there were dwelling houses plus administrative and religious architecture. The powerful concentration of population created preconditions for new models of administration, and through the Salinar culture these doctrines became part of the experience of later cultures on the north coast.

The Salinar ceramics largely carries on the traditions of the Cupinisque ceramics. What is missing from the Salinar vessels, however, is the artistic elegance of the Cupinisque ceramics. It has been replaced by fresh directness. The sculptural decorative motifs of the Salinar ceramics were animals and people, and one of its new areas was erotic ceramics. In addition to sculptural vessels, also plainer paint-ornamented vessels were made within the culture. The typical ground colour of the Salinar ceramics changes from orange to beige.

The natural position and the features of the ape, and the biologically correct number of its fingers imply that whoever made this ceramic vessel had seen real apes which were kept as pets on the north coast from the beginning of the Moche culture. © Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera, Lima, Peru (Cat. 38)