An Archaeology of Sex: The Moche Sex Pots


ACLS Fellowship Program




The ancient Moche of Peru, from 150-850 CE, left a legacy of technically virtuosic, engaging, and beautiful objects of ceramic art. Some are explicitly sexual: bottles in the form of genitalia and modeled and painted figures engaged in an astonishing variety of sex acts. This important corpus of non-Western art brings together two disparate disciplines, sexuality studies and pre-Columbian studies, and poses provocative questions for decolonial and new materialist theory. As the products of societies that were violent and unequal, yet indigenous and animist, they complicate a vision of precapitalist ontologies. As complexly signifying things that are not texts, they demand a decolonized methodology of playing rather than reading. Above all, they display a form of relational sociality among different kinds of bodies—ceramic; fleshly and watery; human and nonhuman; living and dead; and even the viewer’s own eyes, hands, and mouths.