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Donnan/McClelland Categories Collection Record Finding AidEspañol


Christopher B. Donnan

Christopher B. Donnan is an archaeologist who has devoted his life to study the Moche civilization of ancient Peru. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968, and then became a faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he founded the program in Andean archaeology. Donnan spent years excavating Moche archeological sites on the north coastal river valleys of northern Peru, including Huaca Rajada, Sipán, in the Lambayeque Valley, and Pacatnamu, in the Jequetepeque Valley. While at UCLA, Donnan systematically gathered photographic documentation of Moche ceramics from more than two hundred public and private collections around the world and developed a photographic method of documenting all parts of a vessel to capture the totality of iconographic detail. For more than thirty-five years, he collaborated with research associate Donna McClelland, who created the fineline drawings that document the complex iconography of Moche vessels.

Upon his retirement as professor in the Department of Anthropology and director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Donnan donated the Moche Archive to Dumbarton Oaks to ensure that this unsurpassed resource would remain accessible to scholars and researchers. Donnan was a Senior Fellow (1977–1984) and a Visiting Scholar of Pre-Columbian Studies (2009) at Dumbarton Oaks.

Oral history interview ICFA Interview

Donna McClelland

Donna McClelland earned a degree in education from Wichita State University and taught elementary school for several years before pursuing studies in archaeology at UCLA. In 1968, she volunteered to help Donnan organize around two thousand photographs he had taken of Moche objects, a collection that would grow over the years of their collaboration into 165,000 photographs comprising the Moche Archive. With Donnan, McClelland was instrumental in developing ninety-eight categories into which the art is divided, including warfare, hunting, fishing, architecture, erotic themes, portraits, animals, and plants. McClelland spearheaded the effort to create two-dimensional drawings reproducing the iconography of painted vessels, greatly enhancing scholars’ ability to interpret the complex scenes. Arranging Donnan’s photos on a flat surface, she skillfully produced ink drawings by tracing the imagery with a drafting pen, correcting for curvature. In all she produced over 780 rollout drawings of Moche fineline iconography, which were later donated to Dumbarton Oaks by her husband and collaborator of fifty years, Don McClelland.

While creating the drawings for the Moche Archive and researching Moche iconography, McClelland also participated in several archaeological projects in Peru, including Moche Valley-Chan Chan, Chotuna-Chornancap, Pacatnamu, and San José de Moro. She worked on the excavations, rendered drawings, and assisted with cataloging and analyzing the excavated material and in publishing the results.

Obituary by Donnan

Reproductions and Preferred Citation

To reproduce a drawing from the collection, find more information and fill out the form at Rights and Reproductions.  Please include the Moche archive fineline drawing number and the artist's name in the request form.

Preferred citation: “Moche Archive, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections.” 

Further Reading

Alva, Walter, and Christopher B. Donnan. Royal tombs of Sipán. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1993.

Benson, Elizabeth P. The Mochica: A Culture of Peru. New York: Praeger, 1972.

———. The Worlds of the Moche on the North Coast of Peru. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.

Berrin, Kathleen. The Spirit of Ancient Peru: Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Bourget, Steve. Sex, Death and Sacrifice in Moche Religion and Visual Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.

Bourget, Steve, and Kimberly L. Jones, eds. The Art and Archaeology of the Moche: An Ancient Andean Society of the Peruvian North Coast. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.

Castillo B., Luis Jaime. Personajes míticos, escenas y narraciones en la iconografía mochica. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 1989.

Cordy-Collins, Alana. “The Moon is a Boat: A Study in Iconographic Methodology.” In Pre-Columbian Art History; Selected Readings, edited by Alana Cordy-Collins and Jean Stern, 421–34. Palo Alto: Peek Publications, 1977.

Donnan, Christopher B. The Burial Theme in Moche Iconography. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1979.

———. Moche Art and Iconography. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center, University of California, 1976.

———. Moche Art of Peru: Pre-Columbian Symbolic Communication. Rev. ed. Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1978.

———. Moche Fineline Painting: Its Evolution and Its Artists. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1999.

Kutscher, Gerdt. Chimu; eine altindianische Hochkultur. Berlin, Gebr. Mann, 1950.

———. Nordperuanische Keramik, figürlich verziete Gefässe der früh-Chimu. Cerámica del Perú septentrional; Figuras ornamentales en vasijas de los chimúes antiguos. Monumenta Americana I. Berlin: Verlag Gebr. Mann, 1954.

———. Arte antiguo de la costa norte del Perú. Berlin, Gebr. Mann, 1955.

———. Nordperuanische Gefässmalereien des Moche-Stils. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1983.

Larco Hoyle, Rafael. Los mochicas. Vol. 1. Lima: Casa Editora La Crónica y Variedades, 1938.

———. Los mochicas. Vol. 2. Lima: Empresa Editorial Rimac S.A., 1939.

———. Checan; Essay on Erotic Elements in Peruvian Art. Geneva, Paris, and Munich: Nagel, 1965.

McClelland, Donna, McClelland, Donald, and Christopher B. Donnan. Moche Fineline Painting from San José de Moro. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, 2007.

Proulx, Donald. An Archaeological Survey of the Nepeña Valley, Peru. Amherst, MA: Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, 1968.

Quilter, Jeffrey. The Moche of Ancient Peru: Media and Messages. Foreword by Luis Jaime Castillo B., photographs by Mark Craig. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum Press, Harvard University, 2010.

———. “The Moche Revolt of the Objects.” Latin American Antiquity 1, no. 1 (1990): 42–65.

———. “The Narrative Approach to Moche Iconography.” Latin American Antiquity 8, no. 2 (1997): 113–33.

Quilter, Jeffrey, and Luis Jaime Castillo B., eds. New Perspectives on Moche Political Organization. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2010.

Sawyer, Alan R. Ancient Peruvian Ceramics: The Nathan Cummings Collection. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1966. Schmidt, Max. Kunst und Kultur von Peru. Berlin: Propyläen-verlag, 1929.