The Moche

Mochica Headdress-Condor – This is a public image (see rules)

What an absolutely beautiful and flabbergasting thing. I’ve been staring at it awhile and I keep seeing it in new ways. The Moche were a pre-Inca Peruvian people, around 300 – 800 CE. Their pottery is amazing, and until now I have to say I preferred it to their goldwork. But this thing….

How am I to interpret this? My first inclination is to turn it sideways and read it as a condor perched atop the sun, gazing at its reflection in the sea. Then it occurs to me that the baldness and bulbosity of that angry dude’s head makes him look a lot like an Olmec head–one of those monolithic stone heads from Mexico–which sort of evokes that semi-mythical ancestor race of the Americas, the Atlanteans or whatever you want to call them. Makes me think these condors, those immense, indomitable scavengers, represent survival, that the Moche have outlasted their progenitors and at the same time preserved their craft and wisdom. Then again, it looks a lot like a Moche head too. And I keep wondering about those things that look like horns, trying to justify that they represent a rock the condor is perched on, or else some kind of headdress, and not in fact horns. But maybe they are horns. Maybe this is a figure I’m supposed to recognize, a god or demon, in which case I’m pretty much lost. The condors are obvious, but there are only a few gods that consist between cultures, and many, like the old man god/aged maize god/ancestor god, called Itzamna by the Yucatec Maya, are amorphous and archetypal enough to be unrecognizable from one incarnation to the next. Maybe it’s a man-crocodile-jaguar-bird hybrid. Stranger things have happened. The breadth and complexity of precolombian culture humbles me. I am scratching at the door.

I found my way to this piece of art, by the way, via an article fragment that seems to be all that thus far has been shared with the English-speaking press regarding a recent find in Lambayeque, Peru.

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