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University of Texas Press
Sex, Death, and Sacrifice in Moche Religion and Visual Culture / Edition 1

Sex, Death, and Sacrifice in Moche Religion and Visual Culture / Edition 1

by Steve Bourget
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The Moche people who inhabited the north coast of Peru between approximately 100 and 800 AD were perhaps the first ancient Andean society to attain state-level social complexity. Although they had no written language, the Moche created the most elaborate system of iconographic representation of any ancient Peruvian culture. Amazingly realistic figures of humans, animals, and beings with supernatural attributes adorn Moche pottery, metal and wooden objects, textiles, and murals. These actors, which may have represented both living individuals and mythological beings, appear in scenes depicting ritual warfare, human sacrifice, the partaking of human blood, funerary rites, and explicit sexual activities.

In this pathfinding book, Steve Bourget raises the analysis of Moche iconography to a new level through an in-depth study of visual representations of rituals involving sex, death, and sacrifice. He begins by drawing connections between the scenes and individuals depicted on Moche pottery and other objects and the archaeological remains of human sacrifice and burial rituals. He then builds a convincing case for Moche iconography recording both actual ritual activities and Moche religious beliefs regarding the worlds of the living, the dead, and the afterlife. Offering a pioneering interpretation of the Moche worldview, Bourget argues that the use of symbolic dualities linking life and death, humans and beings with supernatural attributes, and fertility and social reproduction allowed the Moche to create a complex system of reciprocity between the world of the living and the afterworld. He concludes with an innovative model of how Moche cosmological beliefs played out in the realms of rulership and political authority.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780292712799
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication date: 08/28/2006
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 931,075
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 10.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Steve Bourget is a research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the Université de Montréal.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1: More Questions than Answers
    • Moche Visual Culture
    • Subjects, Themes, and Narratives
    • Iconography, Archaeology, and Identity
      • Presentation Theme
      • Wrinkle Face and Iguana
      • Ritual Runners
      • Ceremonial Badminton
      • Coca-Taking Ceremony
      • Prisoners and Portrait-Head Vessels
      • Copulation with Wrinkle Face
    • Summary
    • Context and Methodology
      • A Dualist System
      • A Tripartite Organization?
  • Chapter 2: Eros
    • Previous Contributions
      • Rafael Larco Hoyle
      • Anne Marie Hocquenghem
      • Susan Bergh
    • Diachronic versus Synchrony
    • Sodomy
      • Ritual Paraphernalia
      • Presence of Children in Scenes of Sodomy
      • Sodomy and Individual with Fangs
    • Masturbation
    • Fellatio
    • Sexual Depictions on Libation Vases
      • Skeletal Beings and Erections
      • Anthropomorphic Genitals
      • Women and Blood
    • Inverted Fertilities
    • Vaginal Copulation
      • Copulation between Animals
      • Copulation between Animals and Women
      • Copulation between Wrinkle Face and Women
      • Eventual Sacrificial Victims
      • Sacrificial Victims and Vaginal Copulation
    • Summary
  • Chapter 3: Eros and Thanatos
  • Chapter 4: Thanatos
    • Organization of the Narrative
      • The Awakening
      • The Exit
      • The Reinstatement
      • Sacrifice and Capture
    • Strombus Seashells
    • Archaeological Evidence of an Afterworld
    • Summary
  • Chapter 5: Dualities, Liminalities, and Rulership
    • Dualities
      • Sipán
      • Huacas de Moche Site and El Brujo Complex
      • Iconography
      • Asymmetry and Duality
    • Liminalities
    • On the Structure of Moche Rulership
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

What People are Saying About This

Christopher B. Donnan

"Overall, I find this to be an extraordinary book, filled with excellent observations about Moche iconography and world view.... Bourget's arguments [are] extremely interesting, thought-provoking, and potentially of great importance. They will undoubtedly cause other researchers to look at the material in a new way and to test and refine the observations presented in this volume in the years ahead."

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