tDAR Logo tDAR digital antiquity

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors on the North Coast of Peru--Moon Animals in the Virú Imagination

Author(s): Flannery Surette

Year: 2016

» Downloads & Basic Metadata


In the iconography of the north coast of Peru, Moon Animals are otherworldly quadrupedal predators which consistently have prominent eyes, teeth, tongues and claws, long curling tails and large head crests. They can resemble felines or foxes while other depictions appear more reptilian or amphibian. The name originates from the association with lunar and astral motifs in Moche art during the Early Intermediate Period (200 BC-AD 800). These Moche examples have come to define in the literature what is, in fact, an older and widespread motif, one which had been folded into the Moche pantheon and associated with a new set of symbols. This paper explores the appearance of Moon Animals in the pantheon of the Virú polity, contemporaries of the Moche, as they appear in a variety of media including stone, cloth and ceramic, and in both the public and private spheres where they often lack the lunar association. Rather, Virú examples highlight the motif’s origin in the northern Andean highlands, emphasizing the Virú polity’s tendency to look east to the Andes for iconographic inspiration alongside trade in physical goods.

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Cite this Record

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors on the North Coast of Peru--Moon Animals in the Virú Imagination. Flannery Surette. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403821)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America