Joseph Beal Steere collected this endearing anthropomorphic vessel at Ancón, on the coast of Peru, in the early 1870s. It dates to the beginning of the Early Intermediate Period (200 BC–AD 600), when the powerful Moche state was forming in the Moche Valley. The Moche polity existed from AD 100–800 and eventually incorporated a large part of northern Peru into their state. This vessel was likely a grave good, buried with an elite man or woman, or it could have been a drinking vessel for chicha (corn beer). The vessel incorporates stylistic elements of a number of contemporary Early Intermediate Period ceramic traditions. Unfortunately, because Steere was not a trained archaeologist and did not keep detailed records of his excavations, we lack information on the precise context of this vessel that might allow for a more secure interpretation of its use and history.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.