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Classification of erotic pottery, according to Rafael Larco Hoyle

Room E1, Vitrine E19

Peruvian Northern Coast
Florescent Epoch (1 AD – 800 AD)
ML004226, ML004345, ML4361, ML004377

In his book “Checán” (1966), Rafael Larco Hoyle proposed a classification of so-called “erotic” vessels into four types.

Natural erotic representations: Those which lead to pregnancy, and those which avoid conception
“After studying all possible scenarios, but within our own purely archaeological criteria, we decided that the vessels decorated with scenes of natural coitus had been created as funerary offerings that addressed an issue of vital importance, insemination and the continuation of the species. But the motive for the Mochica representation of unnatural carnal union with women and the twisting of their imagination to produce this whole variety of forms of non-reproductive sexual intercourse has constituted a dilemma raised by our observations. I have shared wide-ranging discussions lasting many hours with many men of science regarding this complex issue. Given that this coitus appears to bear no relation to any kind of religious ceremony, we concluded that it served a single purpose: that of avoiding pregnancy”. (pp. 107-112)

Representations of religious eroticism
“After studying these complex scenes, we concluded that the sexual act involving the god Aia Paec, rather than bearing any direct and objective relation to sexual pleasure itself, was associated with fertility. In these vessels, the deity wears on his head a most extravagant headdress. He is depicted with his principal attributes: his serpent-headed earrings, two-headed serpent belt, his necklaces and other jewelry. There exist a few depictions of the deity engaged in the sexual act. We see him engaged in sex in a seated position, sometimes in front of the woman, sometimes in the natural position for sexual union. And, finally, engaged in unnatural acts. With these scenes, the Mochica sought to transform their deity into the focus of the power to inseminate. They sought to deify love and depict the act of love as the creative force of the world. The driving force behind all life. Moreover, by depicted their deity with the sexual attributes of a man, they sought to exalt the functions of instinct and the erotic urge”. (pp. 100-105)

The moralistic vessels
“At first we thought that these vessels bearing the image of Death were semi-skeletal individuals, in different poses, or that they had been placed in the tomb to represent the deceased given over to sexual pleasures. But after studying all the series we have concluded that they are intended as moralistic vessels, the aim of which is to show how sexual excess not only leads to the destruction of the body, but also affects the spiritual realm, overriding the will and ruining an individual completely. Many of these vessels bear on both sides of the face the typical stepped motif of those punished with flaying. In this way, with the eyes without eyelids and the movement of the lower jaw, the captive was given the gruesome and terrifying expression required to serve as a warning to those who saw this Dantesque scene. The images of slow death we see in these moralistic vessels tell us that the Mochica sought to instill in the individual the conviction that lustful conduct gradually ate away at the human body.” (pp. 87-90)

Humorous vessels
“The Mochica found ways to express their ideas while depicting their aberrations with touches of humor and mischievous allusions, a tendency that is seen from the Evolutionary Epoch onwards. The Mochica produced a large number of bottle-shaped vessels, the spouts of which take the form of an erect penis. The only way to drink from these vessels is to take hold of the glans and empty the liquid through the meatus. We also find vessels in which the handle is an erect penis, while on the border that is not intended for drinking a horizontal row of perforations can be seen. Their purpose is to prevent the drinker from imbibing in this way, because the open orifices are designed to cause the liquid to spill over him. In this way, the drinker is forced to sample the contents via the sexual representation with which the vessel is decorated. The Mochica humanized the male organ in order to lend it the characteristics and life of a person. Many vessels were also produced in which a man is depicted with disproportionately large genitals, which in some cases are as large as the individual. Some of these vessels are also designed to oblige the drinker to engage in a simulation of oral contact with the penis. In a number of other vessels, the concave surface is decorated with a supine woman. All the vessels of this type are double-bottomed. Other vessels feature a woman with a disproportionately large vulva. Given its structure, anyone drinking from the vessel is forced to do so from the female organs.” (pp. 80-81)