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    Auslander, Mark 2017. Rose’s Gift: Slavery, Kinship, and the Fabric of Memory. Present Pasts, Vol. 8, Issue. 1,

    Weismantel, Mary J 2015. The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality. p. 721.

    Weismantel, Mary and Meskell, Lynn 2014. Substances: ‘Following the material’ through two prehistoric cases. Journal of Material Culture, Vol. 19, Issue. 3, p. 233.

  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Eighteen - Obstinate Things

from Section IV - Showing and Telling

“Sexual silences” in archaeology: when Barb Voss and Eleanor Casella invited me to write on this provocative topic, I responded immediately. I planned to write a paper on the multiple silences that surround certain pre-Columbian ceramics I call the Moche “sex pots”: drinking vessels shaped like human genitalia and bottles about a foot high, bearing small figures engaged in a variety of sex acts (Figure 18.2). They are part of a large corpus of fine ceramics produced on the North Coast of Peru during the first millennium ce (Figure 18.1). Perhaps one hundred thousand Moche ceramics are still in existence, scattered in museums and private collections across the globe; some hundreds of these are sex pots. Almost all of them lack provenience, the product of centuries of looting.

Potentially, the Moche sex pots have a lot to offer. For scholars of sexuality, this is a rare corpus of sexually explicit art made by Native Americans. For archaeologists, Moche may mark one of the few times and places in world history where a state developed independently; it is unquestionably a period of intensifying inequality and the consolidation of elite control. These grave goods from elite tombs could provide insights into the ideological shift that underwrote that critical transformation.

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The Archaeology of Colonialism
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