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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
 
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MOCHÉ
Peru
Warrior
100-800 AD
Silver, gilt copper, and shell

6 3/4 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean
The Glassell Collections of African, Indonesian & Pre-Columbian Gold
 
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This warrior was a burial offering for royalty of the Moché culture. He holds tools of his trade--a club and shield--and he wears a padded tunic, a helmet, and ear flares. The object on his back appears to be a drum. His eyes are inlaid with white shell turned green by oxidized copper in the statue.

The Moché lived on the north coast of present-day Peru from 100 to 800 AD. To them, warfare and religion were interconnected. Animal and human sacrifices, typically of captured enemies, were ritually performed to feed the earth and the gods and to promote agricultural fertility. The Moché built large, decorated temples on which to enact these ceremonies.

Despite their aggressive nature, the Moché were also great artisans. Master metalsmiths, they used gold, silver, and copper in a variety of techniques, some still not fully understood. Though gold and goldworking was an important part of their culture, silver also played a significant role. Silver was the female counterpart to the masculine essence of the sun, and each was an element of the cosmic balance necessary for survival. This fearsome warrior is composed of silver and copper covered with thin layers of gold in a process called gilding. The different surfaces create a striking contrast.