One of the most frequently represented rituals in Moshe pottery is the “deer hunt” (Caza del Venato). The hunters are members of the Mocha nobility, who are seen wearing fine clothing, magnificent headdresses with metal adornments, large ear ornaments and breastplates. They often carry weapons such as clubs, lances, darts and spear throwers. In this example the deer are being caught with nets with women waiting with vessels to collect the blood. The way in which these individuals are dressed indicates that this hunt was ceremonial In nature. The attire of the noble hunters is very similar to the clothing wom by the warriors who faced each other in ritual combat. In the same way that these combats were not related to the conquest of territory, but rather to the capturing of opponents for sacrifice, the aim of these hunts was to capture a deer for ritual sacrifice rather than food. The presence of the spotted dog, often the companion of the radiant God (called psychopomp in this context) and warrior priests, emphasizes the religious nature of the deer hunt.
Two of the most common recurring themes on Moche/Mochica culture pottery are depictions of anthropomorphic birds, animals and lima beans. These themes played prominent roles in ceremonies and everyday life. Birds were precious resources in the economy of Andean societies. Merchants traded brilliantly colored parrot and macaw feathers in long-distance networks connecting the Amazonian rainforest, the Cordillera, and the remote Pacific coast, where they decorated garments of rulers and kings. Coastal agriculturalists used guano to enrich their fields. Sailors collected the valuable fertilizer offshore on sacred islands, where they left prestigious offerings. On the coast, domesticated muscovy ducks may have been part of the subsistence. One of the frequently recurring themes in Moche art is the race between human beings with the features of animals, carrying bags with lima beans and sticks in their hands. In this race the runners participated wearing their finest clothing and elaborate headdresses, one of the most characteristic of which was the circular frontal headdress.
“Throughout history, clothing has not only protected us from the natural elements, it has also enabled us to demonstrate who we are. Our clothing and adornments indicate our gender and social position, as well as our origins and what we do. In all ancient societies, the elite employed ways of defining themselves. In ancient Peru leaders would dress and adorn themselves with articles exclusive to their social rank. They would preside over the principal ceremonies wearing garments and ornaments which not only denoted the function they performed, but which also displayed the religious codes of their society and the emblems of power and privileged status. Their social position and identity were defined by their dress, crowns and many items of jewelry. When they died they took with them into the afterlife objects which expressed their way of seeing the world. They were interred with the ritual attire which had identified their rank during life, and which had marked them out as the descendants of the gods. Their identity transcended their earthly existence and accompanied them into the next world. After death, these rulers would be transformed into ancestors who would share a place in the celestial world with the gods.” Larco Museum
At the Larco museum they had a section devoted to Moche warfare and ceremonial human sacrifice. Flourishing on the north coast of Peru between 100 and 800 CE, the Moche created ceramic vessels richly decorated with detailed, fineline paintings that relate complex tales. The surviving ceramics provide a wealth of information about Moche society and iconography. Moche artists frequently depicted warriors and warrior activities, and hundreds of these depictions can be found in museums and private collections today. The combat they depict appears to be ceremonial rather than militaristic. There are no depictions of warriors attacking castles or fortified settlements, or killing, capturing, or mistreating women or children. Moreover, there is no portrayal of equipment or tactics that involved teams of warriors acting in close coordination. We see no regular formations of troops like Greek phalanxes, or siege instruments whose operation would have involved trained squads of individuals. Although there are a few depictions of two warriors fighting a single opponent, the essence of Moche combat appears to have been the expression of individual valor, in which the warriors engage in one-on-one combat. Only rarely were combatants killed; the goal appears to have been to capture the opponent for ritual sacrifice.
I was at the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru and saw these beautiful ceramics and pots, which inspired me to research this interesting and influential culture. The Moche civilization (alternatively, the Mochica culture, Early Chimu, Pre-Chimu, Proto-Chimu, etc.) flourished in northern Peru with its capital near present-day Moche and Trujillo, from about 100 AD to 800 AD, during the Regional Development Epoch. While this issue is the subject of some debate, many scholars contend that the Moche were not politically organized as a monolithic empire or state. Rather, they were likely a group of autonomous polities that shared a common elite culture, as seen in the rich iconography and monumental architecture that survive today. Moche history may be broadly divided into three periods: the emergence of the Moche culture in Early Moche (100–300 AD), its expansion and florescence during Middle Moche (300–600 AD), and the urban nucleation and subsequent collapse in Late Moche (500–750 AD). Moche portrait vessels are ceramic vessels featuring highly individualized and naturalistic representations of human faces that are unique to the Moche culture of Peru. These portrait vessels are some of the few realistic portrayals of humans found in the Precolumbian Americas.
This Sculptural Virú Pitcher from the Peruvian Formative Period represents a creature with the body of a feline, the head of an owl and the tail of a snake. The Gallinazo culture that reigned on the north coast of Peru from about 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. was developed in the river valley of Virú. That is why it is sometimes also called the Virú culture. This North Coast culture was based in the Virú Valley and extended into the Moche and Santa Valleys as well. The Virú Valley is on a coastal landscape which consists of a narrow land strip boarded by the Andes Mountains to its east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Gallinazo artefacts have been found from the area that extends from the river valley of Santa almost to the border of Ecuador. The Gallinazo culture is an important mark in the prehistory of the north coast, because the aristocratic administrative system that it developed and strengthened laid the foundation for the Moche culture.