Pre-Columbian Pottery Porno (ca. 100-800 AD)

By: The Scribe on Thursday, April 26, 2007



the mocheThe Moche civilization occupied the coastline northern Peru for around 700 years, building large stepped platforms and creating elaborately painted murals depicting their gruesome traditions of ritual warfare. However, the Moche are best known for their advanced agricultural knowledge and complex ceramics and pottery.

Moche pottery is one of the most diverse types of pottery known from an ancient civilization, and many of their pieces were mass produced in molds. Despite this, there was a great variety in Moche pottery, which depicted everything the culture seemingly found important: vegetables, animals & birds, war, metalworking, weaving, and of course, sex. There were also many “portrait vases”, which were pottery vessels made to resemble a person’s head. The faces also depict a variety of emotions, such as anger, laughter, or deep thought.

moche person

The pottery was made by applying clay figures onto the pottery before it dried (and thus before firing), a technique not frequently used due to the risk of explosion in the kiln – if there were any air pockets left between the pot and figure joints. The color of the pottery was fairly simple as well, mainly black, red, white, and cream.

moche in bed

The erotic pottery of the Moche is highly varied, showing a great deal of creativity reminiscent of the Hindu Kama Sutra. What has fascinated scholars is the limited number of depictions of standard procreative copulation on these vessels; this is only ever depicted when the male is shown wearing ceremonial dress, the female’s hair is parted into two braids ending in snake’s heads, and the act is occurring within a ceremonial building with additional figures standing around to watch. While the exact meaning of such a depiction has not yet been established, it is clear that the Moche were not squeamish about their sexuality.

The Museo Larco in Lima, Peru, holds a large number of Moche pottery and artifacts, including a gallery of erotic pottery. Some images from this gallery are available online here.

Tomorrow: The Mega Temples of Malta







 

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4 Comments so far

All Hail the Sacred Lima Bean! (ca. 6000 BC – 800 AD) - The Ancient Standard at August 1, 2007

[...] children, it turns out that lima beans were once touted as a sacred, elite-only delicacy among the Moche civilization of northern Peru. Known for their lively painted and sculpted pottery vessels, many of the images [...]

Early Mayan Manioc Field Preserved by Volcano (600 AD) - The Ancient Standard at August 27, 2007

[...] Other Central and South American cultures would also later come to rely on manioc as a large component of their diet, including the Pre-Columbia civilization of the Moche. [...]

The Chachapoyas Cloud Warriors of Ancient Peru – Part 2/3: Conquered by Tupac?! (9th – 15th C AD) - The Ancient Standard at October 6, 2007

[...] reached the same level of technology in their material culture as other Peruvian cultures like the Moche or Nazca, they created simple and functional pieces of art that reflected what was important to [...]

Cliff Richey at December 5, 2009

These vessels and their depictions were not primarily meant to be erotic as such. While they had to be based in some reality the imagery was intended to be viewed as metaphorical and was cosmological in nature. Such imagery sets the subject matter or theme of the signs that make up its composition.

What the “erotic” vessel imagery depicted was an intercourse between the sky and the earth (earth woman). The black and red colors were based on the same concept as held by the Maya –death and resurrection.

The blanket (the covering) carries the signs for, a multitude of places on the earth’s surface where this transaction took place. The “plus” signs simply mean a crossing through the earth’s surface. This intercourse could not be viewed as indicated by the two black lines of darkness. It took place upon the bowl shaped container which was a spring or other water source. The spout of the vessel is a sign for a hole or vent into the earth (earth-woman). and the handle is the sign for on the side (of the earth).

The actual subject matter is the passing of the human spirit from beneath the earth (burial) to the sky (ascension). This was viewed as a circular transaction and was probably based on the water cycle (i.e water evaporating and rising to the sky to return as rain). This cosmology was based on the observation of nature and the many instances of transformation that can be seen such as caterpillars turning into butterflies or tadpoles changing into frogs etc. Life and death was viewed as such a transformation of one kind of being changing into another.

Such vessels and their imagery were the result of a very sophisticated compositional system of written sign language.

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