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Vessel Forms


Fineline painting is found on several types of vessel forms in the Moche world. Many vessels are excavated from tomb contexts, where valuable or otherwise meaningful objects were interred with their owners. Archaeologists use the close correlation between objects found in tombs and the interred to hypothesize the individual’s social role or identity. Floreros (flared bowls), jars, and dipper vessels likely functioned as serving vessels, while other forms, including the stirrup spout vessel and goblet or cup, were probably used for ritual purposes.

All photographs on this page by Christopher Donnan, from the Moche Archive.

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Floreros (flared bowls)

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Double Spout and Bridge

Unlike stirrup spout vessels, double spout and bridge vessels have two spouts with a solid, connecting bridge.

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Stirrup Spout Vessels

The stirrup spout is a form that appears early in the Andean region and consists of a chamber, an arched “stirrup,” and a single spout with a rim or lip. The chamber forms can vary; while they are often oblate, they can also be spherical, cylindrical, cube-like, angled, or molded in the forms of figures, architecture, or human heads. Although it is possible to fill the vessels and pour liquid from the spouts, the form is generally considered to function as an effigy rather than as a utilitarian object. The stirrup spout form was a favorite medium for Moche fineline artists.

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Dipper Vessels (Corn Poppers)

Dipper vessels, also known as corn poppers, take the form of a semiclosed bowl with a long handle on one side. Donnan and McClelland (1999) hypothesize the ceramic form was derived from similar objects made of gourds.


San José de Moro Vessels

The site of San José de Moro is located in the Jequetepeque Valley just outside of the modern-day town of Chepen. The site has been continuously excavated for over twenty years, including by Donnan and, today, by his student, Luis Jaime Castillo Butters. The site is well known for elite female burials where many examples of stirrup spouts featuring a distinct fineline style have been archaeologically excavated.