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Container Depicting Warriors, Rulers, and Winged Beings with Trophy Heads

A work made of ceramic and pigment.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of ceramic and pigment.


180 BCE–500 CE


South coast, Peru

About this artwork

This monumental ceramic ceremonial drum or a storage container—its long crack was repaired in antiquity—displays scenes depicting military triumph. On the upper tier, composite supernatural creatures combine forms derived from predatory birds, felines, and fish, thereby manifesting the powers of the sky, earth, and sea. These otherworldly beings feast on human captives and trophy heads, emphasizing that the natural world is not only nurturing, but also dangerous. Nazca warriors also hold weapons and trophy heads, and wear similar masks and headdresses to those worn by the composite figures, signifying that the ultimate source of their military prowess is derived from the supernatural realm. A group of elaborately attired individuals witness the sacrifices of the prisoners captured in battle. Military expeditions and ceremonies were timed to the seasonal rhythms of the environment in order to stimulate the powers of the natural world upon which human societies depended.
— Permanent collection descriptive text


On View, Gallery 136


Arts of the Americas




Container Depicting Warriors, Rulers, and Winged Beings with Trophy Heads


Peru (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

180 BCE–500 CE


Ceramic and pigment


127 × 114.3 × 114.3 cm (50 × 45 × 45 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Edward and Betty Harris

Reference Number


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