Prisoner Jar

Date: 2nd–7th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Moche

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 10-3/4 in. (27.3 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Gift of Judith Riklis, 1983

Accession Number: 1983.546.6


Prisoners are often represented naked in Moche art. In painted scenes, they are stripped of their clothes and other power attributes such as weapons, headdresses, and earspools, in sign of defeat. They are also paraded by warriors, with ropes around their necks and hands tied behind their backs. This sculpted kneeling prisoner wears a sleeved tunic and a headdress ornamented with a spread-winged owl. However, the empty holes in his earlobes, his exposed genitals, and his tied neck clearly indicate his condition. Statuettes similar to this jar were found in a sacrificial site on the Huaca de la Luna, a major Moche mudbrick platform. The statuettes have been intentionally smashed among the bodies of more than seventy sacrificed men. Like their ceramic representation, actual human prisoners had tied hands and ropes around their necks.