Bottle with Snake

Date: 2nd–5th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Moche

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Gift of Conny and Fred Landmann, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.60.9


The ceramic stirrup-spout bottle was an important vessel among peoples on the Peruvian north coast from the second millennium B.C. onward. The globular chamber of this pleasing, well-proportioned bottle is shaped to accommodate the undulating body of a big serpent worked in relief on one half of the chamber. The reptile's large head has catlike eyes, whiskers, and a bifurcated tongue. A mythological creature known as the "eared" serpent may be depicted, as it often assumes feline characteristics such as whiskers and fangs. The serpent's body is outlined in white and decorated with concentric circles. The elegant arch of the spout, which could serve as a handle, thickens toward the juncture with the chamber, and from its center rises its short tapering end. The shape of the spout indicates an early date in the long ceramic sequence of the Moche. Snakes were common and depictions of them abound. Although their meaning is unclear, the annual shedding of their skins may have been symbols of renewal and regeneration.