Moche portrait of a blind man, 400-500 AD
(thanks to Oberlin College)
The collapse of the Olmec state in Central America, about 400 BC, seems to have opened the way for other people to develop states of their own. The Moche were one of these kingdoms. They started up around 100 AD along the Pacific coast of South America, in what is now northern Peru. The Moche kingdom was mainly based on farming corn and beans, like the Maya at the same time. There were big complicated irrigation systems all over the area controlled by the Moche. Nobody knows exactly what the government of the Moche looked like - it may have been an empire, or it may have been a bunch of independent city-states united by having the same language and culture, like classical Greece just a little earlier.
The Moche built an adobe pyramid called the Huaca del Sol, and another pyramid nearby called the Huaca de la Luna. These had stone carvings and painted murals. There are many other Moche towns as well.
The Moche continued to control much of modern Peru until about 600-800 AD, when their empire seems to have collapsed. This collapse may have been caused by climate change about this time.
To find out more about South American history before 1500, check out these books from Amazon.com or from your library:
Ancient Rome (Eyewitness Books), by Simon James (2004). For kids.
Handbook of Mediterranean Roman Pottery, by John W. Hayes (1997). Hayes has been the leading expert on Roman pottery for the last several decades.
Roman Pottery, by Kevin Greene (1992). Greene is another pottery expert, particularly interested in what pottery can tell us about the Roman Economy.