Sunday with a Touch of Sacrilege
So last Sunday, the three of us had planned to check out Peru’s famous Museo Larco, but were sidetracked by the beautiful weather and our own general laziness. But we knew we had to see this museum before leaving Lima, as it boasts one of the most famous collections of pre-Columbian erotic pots in South America. Who could resist?
The museum grounds were absolutely dripping with flowers.
And the sky was a calm but distinguished blue.
We were attracted by all the flowers and went to explore the garden. In its midst was the “Erotic Gallery,” housing aforementioned pre-Columbian erotic pots, which is separate from the rest of Museo Larco.
Yup, pretty explicitly erotic.
Not just humans either!
I don’t know if the above are humans or animals or gods or whatever, but they look pretty blissed out.
After that gallery, off we went to the rest of Museo Larco, to learn all about the history of Peru – which I for one, knew nothing about. Here it is, for our equally uninformed readers:
Peru has been inhabited for the past 10,000 years, and developed societies sophisticated enough to be called civilizations almost 5,000. As such, Peru joins the ranks of societies such as Egypt, China, and ancient Mesopotamia, which evolved civilizations independently (as far as anyone knows). Although the Inca Empire is the most well-known period of Peruvian history, in fact, they were in control of Peru (and other parts of South America) for a mere 150 years before the Spanish arrived. Prior to the Inca, the Moche and Paracas civilizations dominated (while these were not the earliest Peruvian civilizations, little is known about previous societies). Museo Larco focused primarily on the rise and fall of the Moche civilization, and the effects it had on the Inca Empire.
The Moche’s beliefs about the nature of the world parallel Chinese beliefs about yin & yang: both cultures believed in the essential duality of the natural order, represented by masculine and feminine elements operating in tandem (sun/moon, hot/cold, etc.) Gold and silver were immensely valued in this culture because of their associations with the sun and moon – because the sun and moon are located in the heavens, they appeared to the Moche to be divine. When their rules wore these precious metals, they were basically claiming divine ancestry.
They expressed their belief in duality elegantly, in a bowl made of both gold and silver.
They also wore a whole lot of jewelry. On the left are several nose-rings, while on the right are earrings.
Furthermore, the Moche believed in a three tiered world, consisting of heavens, earth, and the underworld. Their beliefs about sexuality (epitomized by the erotic pot collection) are deeply intwined with their make-up of the world.
The World of the Gods
Represented by birds
The god Ai Apaec copulates, giving origin to life. He inseminates the woman, the earth, and from this union, the first fruits are produced. The union is performed at specific moments during the agricultural calendar, such as when the time for irrigating or planting begins.
The World of the Living
Represented by felines
In the earthly world, humans join to procreate. The union between man and woman makes new life possible. In this world, the animals also copulate, and in this way they insert themselves into the cycle of life.
The World of the Dead
Represented by serpents
The dead are often depicted as sexually active beings in pre-Columbian ideology, with the ability to interact among themselves and the world of the living. The dead cannot procreate, of course, but are able to emit semen, a fertilizing liquid which must be offered to the earth, which is inhabited by the living. Living men and women also perform sexual acts that do not lead to procreation, symbolically linking the world of the living with the world of the dead.
Represented by serpents and by very skeletal human forms.
Moche tribesmen regularly performed ritual sacrifices to the gods to appease them and prevent catastrophic natural events. The failure of various sacrifices to actually stop said cataclysms led to the fail of the Moche people, as the disillusioned tribesmen decided to combine with other, more powerful tribes, having lost faith in themselves and their gods. From this fusion, the Inca tribes developed. The Moche influence on the Inca is fairly obvious, and continued to be felt even after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
One of their rituals was skull trepanation. It sometimes even left the person alive, as you can see on the right where some bone regeneration has occurred around the hole. This was done to the wealthy, to separate them from the ranks of the common people. The things we do to ourselves in the name of wealth and power!
After exploring the museum and learning all about the Moche, we stopped for a quick snack, and then headed back to the hostel to rest up for another long day with ASPAT. Stay tuned!