Figure Bottle, 3rd–5th century
Ceramic, slip, pigment; H. 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm), W. 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm)
Gift of Nathan Cummings, 1964 (64.228.43)
This Moche stirrup spout bottle represents a man wearing a sleeved tunic with vertical bands and carrying funerary items. He is holding a rolled mat in his right hand and a dipper in his left hand. Similar Moche vessels represent mutilated individuals, skeletal beings, and anthropomorphized bats performing the same action. The preparation of the bodies, their shrouds, encasings, and funerary offerings was an elaborate process in Moche society. The body was first wrapped in one or many layers of textiles, then encased in a cane structure, or in a fiber mat, as the one illustrated here. Small copper or stone objects were often placed in the hands and mouth of the deceased. Fine ceramic vessels are the most ubiquitous offerings in Moche burials. The deceased were also frequently buried with personal adornments, gourds filled with food, metal objects, and everyday implements such as spindles, whorls, and needles. The quantity and quality of funerary offerings, as well as the time invested in preparing and encasing the body, depended on the social status of the deceased.