Lords, Warriors, and Priests

(1) Stirrup-spout bottle depicting a headdress with human hands and arms, PM 09-3-30/75626.2
(2) Ceramic bottle with molded figurine, PM 973-24-30/8896
(3) Red and white stirrup pot, PM 46-77-30/5087
(4) Stirrup-spout bottle depicting anthropomorphic creatures in a mountain setting, PM 16-62-30/F723
(5) White stirrup pot, PM 46-77-30/4967
(6) Pottery vessel, PM 968-14-30/8608
(7) Ceramic vessel with mountain scene, PM 09-3-30/75629
(8) Red miniature pottery effigy, PM 46-77-30/5079
(9) Seated warrior on cubical bottle, PM 46-77-30/5030
(10) Ceramic stirrup-spout bottle depicting warrior, PM 09-3-30/75622.5
(11) Ceramic stirrup-spout bottle with geometric fighting design, PM 46-77-30/4955
(12) Ceramic stirrup-spout bottle, PM 46-77-30/5891
(13) Stirrup-spout bottle depicting a prisoner, PM 46-77-30/4980
(14) Ceramic bottle with zoomorphic fighting design, PM 46-77-30/4948
(15) Water bottle, PM 09-3-30/75610
(15) Water bottle, side view, PM 09-3-30/75610

Moche lords, warriors, and priests are all depicted in art.  Rank in both earthly and supernatural realms was denoted by  the degree of costume elaboration, with special attention  devoted to headdresses. One style of headdress, with human hands and arms as part of its decoration, was significant enough to be represented by itself (1).

People of the highest ranks wore headdresses with a circular (2) or semicircular element (3, 4), like a crest, at the top front. Modeled representations show these decorations with their fronts facing the viewer, as in the examples here. Some Moche figures are shown with very simple, turban-like-headwrappings (5). We can determine that these individuals were of high rank by other signs, such as large ear ornaments (6). Seated figures (7) are also of high rank, as lords would be seated to receive subordinates.  Seated figures in mountain scenes (4, 7) may depict lords, priests, or gods in some special state or ritual.

Depicted weaponry includes spears thrown by spear-throwers, lances, slings, and various kinds of clubs (8). Round or square shields and conical helmets that served for defense (9) are  also shown. Designs on shields, helmets, and tunics may signal rank, ethnicity, or some other important identity (10).

Moche depictions of battle show hand-to-hand combat (11).  Clubs like the large two-handed one displayed on this vessel, often shown elsewhere with a metal spike at the bottom, may have provided a key advantage to Moche armies (12).  Art also emphasizes the taking of prisoners for sacrifice; here a prisoner sits naked with a rope around his neck (13).

Animals, especially raptor birds and foxes and dogs (14, 15), are often depicted as warriors. They may represent warrior societies, Moche social groups, or mythical armies.