Obstinate things

Mary Weismantel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

11 Scopus citations


“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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Archaeology of Colonialism
Subtitle of host publicationIntimate Encounters and Sexual Effects
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780511920011
ISBN (Print)9781107008632
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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