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Pre-Columbian Moche Stirrup-Spout

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Pre-Columbian Moche Stirrup-Spout

- Item No.

Item Details

  • Height:
    12" Inches
  • Diameter:
    4" Inches
  • Period:
    Pre-18th Century
  • Origin:
    America
A large number of Moche stirrup spout bottles represent men or anthropomorphized creatures assembled in line in a desert environment. These ritual beings have been interpreted as warriors or messengers traveling from one site or one valley to another. Most of the figures represented on these pots wear loincloths or short skirts with a decorated belt, as well as distinctive headdresses composed of a turban with a large disk or trapezoidal element on the front and long ribbons down the back.

 In much Moche art legs were painted in side view, the torso was frontal, the face in profile, with a frontal eye. On this Moche stirrup spouted vessel the protaganists are notably without legs.  Their represented appendages are ambiguous but are probably representative of a claw and a phallus.  These figures almost certainly represent either a compositional deity or a shaman undergoing a spiritual transformation.  Shamans and deities were often represented with iconography related to their virility, a reference to their life-giving capabilities. Other depictions of a being with similar features to the ones represented here have been labeled by scholars as a "crab man." The iconography on Moche pottery often portrays warrior shamans, combat, and the capture and sacrifice of prisoners. The warrior priest is always depicted as wearing a conical helmet and his body armor features a back flap. The depictions on Moche vessels are essentially realistic in that they portray the actual clothing, ornaments, and weapons that have been found in Moche burials.  Much of the iconography seen on Moche vessels is of unclear meaning because, unlike the Maya to the north, the Moche had no written language.

 These vessels were called stirrup spout vessels because of their resemblance to a stirrup.  The stirrup handle actually forms part of the spout, which emanates from the top of the stirrup. These jars would be cast from a mold, while the stirrup spout was built by hand and welded to the vessel with slip. The coloration of Moche pottery is often simple, with yellowish cream and rich red used almost exclusively on elite pieces, with white and black used in only a few pieces.

 Moche civilization flourished in northern Peru near from about 100 AD to 800 AD.   Moche were not politically organized as a monolithic empire or state. Rather, they were a group of autonomous polities that shared a common elite culture. They are particularly noted for their elaborately painted ceramics, gold work, monumental constructions and irrigation systems.

 Their culture was sophisticated; and their artifacts express their lives, with detailed scenes of hunting, fishing, fighting, sacrifice, sexual encounters and elaborate ceremonies. The Moche co-existed with the Nazca culture in the south.

 Circa, 100-800 AD
Height: 12"
Diameter: 4"

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