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 saw the beautiful Standard of Ur, seen above, when we visited the British Museum last summer. It is about 4,500 years old and was probably constructed in the form of a hollow wooden box with scenes of war and peace represented on each side through elaborately inlaid mosaics of Lapis Lazuli and shell. The standard of Ur shows the first unambiguous depictions of chariots in war. There has been some debate on whether a Sumerian chariot was actually used in combat. Many scholars believe that it was merely a “battle taxi”, used to convey a commander to a strategic part of the battlefield where he could lead his troops, in the same way that a modern general uses a jeep or helicopter to reach the front lines. Some scholars also believe the chariots were used to carry noblemen to the battle, where they would dismount and then fight on foot. The Standard of Ur along with the Vulture stele are the first depictions of war in history. The Standard of Ur dispels any question that chariots were used directly in combat. They were likely heavy and slow to start but undoubtedly were truly intimidating in combat, with an ability to scatter the enemy lines.