Companions or Counterparts: Considering the Role of Animal Depictions in Moche Ceramics from Northern Peru

Author(s): Aleksa Alaica

Year: 2015


The Moche Period (1-850AD) is well known for its iconography with naturalistic depictions of a variety of different figures and themes. One aspect of the corpus that has been under-analyzed is the common representation of plant and animal life. The ceramic assemblages of the Moche depict numerous animal species from coastal, highland and Amazonian locations. Recent work conducted at the Larco Herrera Museum reveals that various animal species may have been considered important symbols of group association and community identity. The patterns that can be ascertained from the vessels that have been analyzed reveal that dog and sea lions may have been key species used to aid in ritual and ceremonial practices. Furthermore, the representation of anthropomorphic figures with animal features suggests that Moche elites personified specific species as a means to heighten the effect and meaning of established ritual performances. This paper will also explore how animal imagery in Moche ceramics may have been expressive of totemistic and animistic ontologies. It will be argued humans and animals were not absolute categories in Moche worldviews and that the boundary separating humans from non-human entities often appears to have been blurred.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Companions or Counterparts: Considering the Role of Animal Depictions in Moche Ceramics from Northern Peru. Aleksa Alaica. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397543)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;