I spent the summer working on the archaeological site of Huaca Colorada, a big Late Moche period (750-950 A.D.) ceremonial center in the Jequetepeque Valley of Peru’s North Coast. The site stands out from its desert surroundings as a gargantuan hill covered in millions of shells, bones, and pot sherds. The artificial hill, once the seat of some kind of important Moche authority, religious, political, or both, seems to have been created to mimic the large cerro mountain that lies to its east, which we recognize from historical documents was once an important deity for the local population.

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Some really cool anomalous artifacts found at Huaca Colorada, a Late Moche period ceremonial center site located in the Jequetepeque Valley on the Northcoast of Peru, which I worked on this summer.

1. A copper earring shaped like a sacrificial Tumi knife, 2. A snarl-toothed clay ocarina shaped like a llama (still works after 1,000 years!) 3. A ceramic mold mask. 4. A late Moche fine-line ceramic with the motif of the Moche San Jose de Moro Priestess figure on her barge. 5. Some ceramic-disk thing with little applique jaguars on the four-corners. We genuinely have no clue what it is. There’s another like it with frogs. It was found on the surface layer of a domestic sector. 6. A ceramic figurine of the Moche San Jose de Moro Priestess. 7. A clay monkey head. 8. A clay dog head. 9. A ceramic with an impressed feline face. 10. A polychrome Wari pot-sherd, figure carrying a goblet of some sort.

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Cupisnique (1250 B.C. - 1 A.D.) chryscolla and shell breastplate from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

Cupisnique (1250 B.C. - 1 A.D.) chryscolla and shell breastplate from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

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Photos of the mesa of a great curandero I had the pleasure of meeting on the north coast of Peru at an archaeological dig. The mesa is a metaphysical extension of the shaman’s consciousness. In front of the altar is a row of the shaman’s chosen chonta sticks, staves used as lightning rods of spiritual energy, with magical iconography carved from Amazonian wood.

North coast shamanism places a heavy emphasis on the reconciliation of opposing but complimentary forces: right and left, light and dark, masculine and feminine, christian and precolumbian. This duality of opposing forces, which are reconciled into harmony with the right/masculine side slightly dominant, has a very long and ancient history in the Andes. The shaman then uses his spiritual powers to harmonize and balance the opposites, and the layout of his mesa reflects this. Christian crosses and holy stones are placed to the right on the altar while herbs and precolumbian artifacts are placed to the left. In the center of the altar sits the statue of Jesus Christ, here draped in a purple robe, and in the center of the row of chonta sticks stands St. Cypriano, the patron saint of the occult, a dark sorcerer who converted to Christianity.

The actual activities of the cleansing Pagapu ritual of the curandero on the north coast involves the spitting of perfume, which creates a ritually charged sensual space, the ingesting of the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus and other herbs through drinking and snuffing, thus heightening the shaman’s perception and healing powers, and the rubbing of ritual objects on the afflicted, which scrubs out the harmful energies in the body through communicable magic.

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Moche II (100-300 A.D.) period painted murals from the tomb of the Senora de Cao at Huaca Cao Viejo, just north of Trujillo, Peru. The brilliant colors and incredible designs of these Moche culture murals have aged remarkably well over the last 1,700 years.

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Chimu elite head-dresses, nose-rings, and breast plates from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

Along with a lackluster modern representation from the visitor’s center at Chan Chan.

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The Moche (100-850 A.D.) sacrifice monster slits the throat of a victim with a tumi knife.
Ceramic from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

The Moche (100-850 A.D.) sacrifice monster slits the throat of a victim with a tumi knife.

Ceramic from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

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Here we have possible reason to suspect that Clint Eastwood may end up a time traveler.
Moche ceramic portrait from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

Here we have possible reason to suspect that Clint Eastwood may end up a time traveler.

Moche ceramic portrait from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

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Good News! It’s Terminal!
Moche (100-850 A.D.) ceramic vessel from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

Good News! It’s Terminal!

Moche (100-850 A.D.) ceramic vessel from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

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One of the Lambayeque (750-1375 A.D.) deities peeks inside a box to satisfy his curiousity. Almost certainly some kind of recurring mythological motif.
Ceramic from the storage section of the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

One of the Lambayeque (750-1375 A.D.) deities peeks inside a box to satisfy his curiousity. Almost certainly some kind of recurring mythological motif.

Ceramic from the storage section of the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

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