Exhibition themes Fertility Vessels

Sexually explicit ceramics, displaying a variety of scenarios, are a feature of Peruvian art. Other cultures produced similar pots, but most finds have been Moche. They fall into a series of standardised types, including pairs of animals. Humans are alone, in couples and in group scenes. Images of male skeletons are common, as are large genitals.

The vessels are of a religious nature, although their exact meaning and function remain unclear. Cat fangs on human skeleton figures suggest a connection with Moche feline supernatural beings. The pots appear to have formed part of funerary rituals and were found in male and female, adult and child graves. No more than two vessels have ever been found at any one site.

Early Spanish conquistadors noted a form of ritualised sexual activity at Incan feasts and religious festivals. Other myths reinforce the symbolic importance of semen in relation to agricultural fertility. Alternative theories suggest that these ceramics are simply humorous, especially since, when filled with liquid and poured, they suggest ejaculation.