Brief IdentificationEditThis clay or ceramic warrior vessel, approximately 9 inches tall, was excavated in present day Peru. The vessel was made by the Moche culture sometime during the Moche civilization’s reign between 100 and 700 CE. While the pot had a functional purpose like storing liquids, these mass produced vessels were also largely used for honorary or ceremonial purposes, as many like it have been found in burial tombs [see Jackson 2008, 38]. Because the Moche did not have a written language, there are no written records. However they left behind a massive store of ceramics and pottery forms like this one and it is from these kinds of archaeological finds that we have been able to learn more about Moche culture.
As with all pottery, Moche vessels were made simply using raw clay and therefore imported materials were unnecessary. While modeling methods were used all over the world, the Moche’s use of molds was quite advanced. The Moche were very skilled at combining hand modeling with molding techniques to create their impressive pottery [see Jackson 2008, 51]. With many vessels, especially more intricate examples like this warrior, part of the vessel was modeled and other parts, such as the face and arms, were made using a mold. The expedience of these molds allowed Moche potters to produce large quantities of ceramic wares more easily and in less time [see Alva and Donnan 1993, 19]. This large scale production was due also in part to entire workshops, like the site found at Cerro Mayal, being devoted to ceramic production; here, highly skilled ceramicists used tempered paste to produce ceramics that were then polished or smoothed and, in some cases, painted as well [see Jackson 2008, 52-53]. Because many of the Moche artifacts found in museums have come from looters, the exact tombs or even valleys from which the came are unknown [see Donnan 2007, 1]. As stated, this warrior vessel was
somewhere in Peru and was donated to the British Museum in 1873 by Sir Augustus Wallaston Franks, where it is currently on exhibit .
Local Historical ContextEditThe Moche, evolving from earlier cultures like the Chavin , dominated the central Andes Mountains on the north coast of Peru for the majority of the 1st millennium CE. Using irrigation systems to harness the streams flowing down from the mountains, the Moche were able to make the hot and dry habitat cultivable for beans, squash, and maize and were thus able to support various urban centers . The Moche had a relatively stratified society. Everyday people worked as farmers, fishermen, craftsmen, and various other labor intensive workmen. Higher individuals served as priests, solidiers, and administrators, moving all the way up to the ruler overseeing the economic, political, and religious ongoings of the society [see Bawden 1996, 76]. Due to the lack of written texts, artwork in the form of vessels, figurines, instruments, and imagery displayed on these items played a major role in political and religious life - working as forms of communication, representation of social status, and ritual paraphernalia [see Pillsbury 2001, 161 and 166]. Clearly, this artwork was critically important both to socially higher and lower individuals. Items such as rattles and whistles were used in rituals while vessels were used in everyday life for storage while still denoting ancestral ties [see Pillsbury 2001, 166 and 168]. Also, due to these political and religious connections, the individuals producing these works played an integral role in society, receiving patronage in the forms of food and protection in return for their art. These patronage relationships ran throughout the society and inside specific professions led to the evolution of "master artisans" [see Pillsbury 2001, 163 and 172]. So indeed these potters and ceramicists held, or at least had the opportunity to hold, strong positions in society.
World-Historical SignificanceEditThis Moche warrior vessel and the pottery like it represent some of the most impressive ceramic work of the the 1st millennium CE. Using progressive innovations like molds and intricate fineline painting the Moche created countless unique vessels and other ceramics. Obviously, functional vases and storage vessels have been used throughout the world for thousands of years. However few cultures, mainly the Moche and the Greek civilization , have used these vessels as canvasses for beautiful artwork and integrated them so deeply into their religious lifestyles. While Moche ceramics were not involved in extremely long range trade, they were indeed moved up and down the entire area of the Moche civilization among the various small polities comprising the entire culture. Perhaps the most crucial aspect of these ceramic artifacts is their effect on the present day. They offer today's lone glimpse into this impressive civilization's way of life. The collapse of the Moche, likely due to climatic changes and drought, marked the end of an era and began to usher in what would later become the great Incan Empire.
Jackson, Margaret A. Moche Art and Visual Culture in Ancient Peru. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008.
Pillsbury, Joanne. Moche Art and Archaeology in Ancient Peru. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
Walter Alva and Christopher Donnan. Royal Tombs of Sipan. Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles, 1993.
Donnan, Christopher B. Moche Tombs at Dos Cabezas. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 2007.
Shimada, Izumi. Pampa Grande and the Mochica Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.
Bawden, Garth. The Moche. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
British Museum, "Moche Warrior Pot," http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aoa/m/moche_warrior_pot.aspx
Britannica Online, "Chavin," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/108149/Chavin
Britannica Online, "Andes Mountains," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/23692/Andes-Mountains
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Moche Decorated Ceramics," http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/moch/hd_moch.htm
Britannica Online, "Ancient Greek Civilization," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/244231/ancient-Greek-civilization
Britannica Online, "Inca (people)," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/284517/Inca