Sea Lion Hunt Bottle

Date: 6th–7th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Moche

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 9 x W. 5 1/2 in. (22.9 x 14 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1961

Accession Number: 1978.412.69


This Moche bottle depicts a hunting scene with human hunters wearing loincloths, turbans, and bags tied around their waists. They hold sticks or long clubs with rounded ends. A line of waves and irregular mounds filled with small dots, probably representing sand dunes, locate the scene in a marine environment. Two sea lions are represented tridimensionally, with their flippers painted directly on the chamber of the vessel. Some sea lions have a circular object in front of the mouth. Similar objects also appear in the mouth of sculpted sea lion vessels. They are interpreted as small beach pebbles that these animals swallow. When hunted, sea lions frequently cough up the stones. Once powdered, these pebbles are believed to possess powerful medicinal properties. Today, they are used on the Peruvian coast by folk healers in order to cure epilepsy and heart disorders.