Bird Warrior Bottle, 4th–7th century
Ceramic; H. 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm), Diam. 6 in. (15.2 cm)
Gift of Nathan Cummings, 1967 (67.167.1)
Stirrup-spout bottles were the privileged ceramic medium used by Moche artists in the expression of complex ideological messages. Moche slip-painted vessels were typically bichrome, with red decoration on white/cream background. This bottle dates from the Moche apogee period (400–750), during which the fineline painting tradition was used to create a great diversity of narrative scenes. Since painting styles of Moche artists are as distinctive as handwritings, it is possible to recognize multiple vessels with scenes painted by the same artist. Here, the figures represent either anthropomorphized bird warriors or human warriors wearing feathered adornments and bird-face masks. They carry shields, lances, and triangular war clubs similar to those found in burials of the Moche elite. Other warrior attributes include the trapezoidal backflaps, conical helmets, and tunics covered with square metal platelets.