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Incised Box

Moche, Early Intermediate Period
100-800 CE
5.8 cm x 7.7 cm x 5.8 cm (2 5/16 in. x 3 1/16 in. x 2 5/16 in.)

On view


This Moche incised stone box is constructed from six pieces of fine-grained stone; each piece was carved into flat, even sheets, cut into rectangles, and drilled to form its shape. Incisions on two side panels illustrate single warriors, while the other three panels depict warriors facing each other, engaged in combat. Even though greenstone inlays are not present here, the eyes and ear spools of the warriors in other examples show what may have existed in the recessed spaces of this object. The wire that holds the box together is not original to the piece, and the holes on the lid and rim indicate that the lid had once been reversed.

The warrior iconography on this object suggests that it served a militaristic function. This iconography is often seen in many forms of Moche visual culture, such as murals found on architecture and decorations on ceramic vessels. It has been stated that the Moche were a highly militaristic culture who practiced human sacrifice, as seen in both the iconography and the archaeological record. The high frequency of warfare depictions in the iconography is telling of how important this activity was to the Moche people.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1969 Supplement to the Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D. C., cat. 459.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1972 The Mochica: A Culture of Peru. Art and Civilization of Indian America. Praeger, New York. fig. 1-15.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill (ED.) 1996 Andean Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks; No. 1. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. vol. 1, p. 143-5, pl. 30.

Coe, Ralph T. 1962 The Imagination of Primitive Man: A Survey of the Arts of the Non-Literate Peoples of the World. William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art; Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts., Kansas City. p. 164-5, cat. 272.

Larco Hoyle, Rafael 1945 Los Mochicas. Sociedad Geogr√°fica Americana, Buenos Aires. p. 28.

Steward, Julian Haynes 1946 Handbook of South American Indians. Bulletin, Bureau of American Ethnology; 143. G.P.O., Interdepartmental Committee on Culture and Scientific Cooperation, Washington, D.C., p. 170, pl. 71i.

Exhibition History
"The Imagination of Primitive Man", Nelson-Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, MO, 1962 (catalogue # 272).

Acquisition History
Formerly in the collection of Rafael Larco Hoyle, Chiclin, Peru.

Gift to Dumbarton Oaks by John Wise, New York (dealer), in memory of Robert Woods Bliss, 1963.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Anthropomorphic | Moche | Warriors