Molded as a standing figure of Ai-apec; stirrup spout
Finely decorated ceramics of the prehispanic Moche culture of north coastal Peru (100-800 CE) are typically recovered in large caches from elaborate burial contexts. Moche art features both individual subjects—often in modeled forms such as this stirrup spout vessel—and elaborate scenes of processions, burial rites, and human sacrifice painted in fine-line designs. There is an intriguing cast of human and supernatural characters combined into “themes” or “narratives” that we rely upon to interpret religious beliefs from the unwritten past. This vessel represents a category of deity figures in Moche art that is not well understood. At first glance he appears to be a human wearing a headband, large earrings, and a decorated tunic. Upon further examination, attention is drawn to the figure’s crossed fangs. Is he a human in costume? A divine ruler? A god? An ancestor? A character from Moche mythology related to the afterlife? The significance of this particular vessel remains ambiguous, but provides interesting interpretive possibilities as to the role of supernatural beings in burial rituals and religious practices for the Moche.
-Elizabeth Klarich, Five College Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Global Perspectives: Exploring the Art of Devotion (February 9 - May 30, 2010)
pottery; vessels; containers; ancient; archaeology; funeral rites and ceremonies; dress accessories; religion; mythology; indigenous people
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