|Figures 1 & 2: Moche Pottery; Prisoner, Realistic Ceramic (Left) and Fisherman, Moche Fine Line (Right). Images Taken by C. Boston, 2007.|
The Moche existed along north coast of Peru from 200 to 850 AD. It was a complex, state level society that covered a large geographical area. Their cities, temples, and agriculture dotted the northern Peruvian coastline in what are considered two factions of the Moche: the Northern and Southern. They both had a complex ideology that involved ritual sacrifice, priests and priestesses, and elaborate ceremonials. The Moche are probably best known and recognized for their complex pottery styles, which ranged from fine-line to realistic pieces, all of which were made with clay and elaborately painted and stylized (Figure 1 & 2). One such pottery style that is poorly studied among the Moche is their erotic pottery (Figure 3).
|Figure 3: Moche Erotic Pottery (Source: Journeys, & C)|
|Figure 4: Moche Phallic Libation Ceramic (Image Source: Elo Gallery)|
The purpose of the Moche erotic pottery is still unknown in part due to their lack of study and the lack of contextual information associated with them. There are, however, some hypotheses to explain the purpose of these ceramics:
· Many scholars believe that these pots were used by the Moche as educational tools about sex and reproduction. Given the number of sexual acts presented in the pottery this idea seems plausible, but the rarity of vaginal sexual acts, which leads to reproduction, casts doubt on this hypothesis.
· R. Larco Hoyle proposed that the Moche erotic ceramics were indeed used as an educational tool for sexual education but not for reproductive purposes. He believed that the lack of vaginal intercourse and the high prevalence of non-reproductive sexual acts, such as anal sex and masturbation, meant that the erotic pottery represented acts of birth control.
· Joan Gero believes that the Moche erotic pottery, while literally representing sexual acts, metaphorically represented power and political relationships within the Moche culture. The Moche was the dominant culture of the period, and Gero believed that the Moche erotics symbolized the Moche’s dominance over other more subordinate groups that they conquered. She also notes that the acts were performed on men by women, further demonstrating the dominance of men over women in Moche society.
· Steve Bourget, however, believes that the Moche erotics signify the political and religious authority of the Moche leadership. He points out how specific sexual acts seem to symbolize religious and authoritative positions. He points out how the position of the individuals in the Moche anal erotics resembles a temple, and how in the oral sexual acts the male is seated with the female kneeling in front, which is similar to a throne.
At this point, it is unclear as to which, if any, of these hypotheses is the strongest and what the true purpose of the Moche erotics may have been. Further study is necessary in order to better understand their purpose and the Moche culture, as well.
Bourget, S. and Taylor, AC. 2010. Sex, Death, and Sacrifice in the Mochica Religion. Musee du quai Branly.
Gero, J. 2004. “Sex Pots of Ancient Peru: Post-Gender Reflections.” In Combining the Past and the Present: Archaeological Perspectives on Society. Edited by T. Oestigaard, N. Anfinset, and T. Saetersdal. Oxford: Publishers of British Archaeological Reports.
Larco Hoyle, R. 1965. Checcan. Geneva: Nagel.