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How Art Made the World Episode 5 The Skulls
of Jericho

Moche
Civilization

The Aztecs
of Mexico
The Etruscans

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Solomon & Greenberg:
Death Images
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Moche Civilization

Two thousand years ago, the Temple of the Moon, or Waca Da Luna, was built by the Moche civilization in Northern Peru. At first glance, the images on the mud walls of this temple appear faded and of little significance. But if you look closely they are an unsettling sight. The walls are covered with horrific fantasy creatures that could only come from the dark side of the artistic imagination. Also scattered about the site is Moche pottery, which is equally disturbing. The pottery is covered with pictures of humans being devoured in grotesque ways.

Human sacrifice and dismemberment were the real-life models for Moche art.

But why were the Moche preoccupied with these kinds of death images? Archeologists discovered a possible answer to this question in a site close by the temple. At the base of a prominent rock, seventy dismembered skeletons were buried. Disturbingly, these sacrificial remains bore a remarkable resemblance to many of the images that adorned the pottery and walls of the temple. It appears human sacrifice and dismemberment were the real-life models for Moche art.

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