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Image Encounters

Image Encounters
Moche Murals and Archaeo Art History

The first comprehensive study of Moche mural art, this landmark book develops a methodology of archaeo art history to examine image making and visual experience in an era of ancient Peruvian history before the use of writing.

Series: Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas

January 2022
Not yet published

Available for pre-order.
This book will be available in December 2021.
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344 pages | 8.5 x 11 | 185 color photos and illustrations, 34 b&w photos and illustrations, 3 maps |

Moche murals of northern Peru represent one of the great, yet still largely unknown, artistic traditions of the ancient Americas. Created in an era without written scripts, these murals are key to understandings of Moche history, society, and culture. In this first comprehensive study on the subject, Lisa Trever develops an interdisciplinary methodology of “archaeo art history” to examine how ancient histories of art can be written without texts, boldly inverting the typical relationship of art to archaeology.

Trever argues that early coastal artistic traditions cannot be reduced uncritically to interpretations based in much later Inca histories of the Andean highlands. Instead, the author seeks the origins of Moche mural art, and its emphasis on figuration, in the deep past of the Pacific coast of South America. Image Encounters shows how formal transformations in Moche mural art, before and after the seventh century, were part of broader changes to the work that images were made to perform at Huacas de Moche, El Brujo, Pañamarca, and elsewhere in an increasingly complex social and political world. In doing so, this book reveals alternative evidentiary foundations for histories of art and visual experience.

  • Preface
  • Introduction: Image Encounters
  • Chapter 1. Mural Origins and Coastal Corporealities
  • Chapter 2. Ancestral Divinities, Norcosteño Design, and the Aesthetics of Replication in Moche Mural Art (200–650 CE)
  • Chapter 3. Siting Narratives: Moche Mural Painting and the Condensation of a Medium (650–850 CE)
  • Chapter 4. Archaeo-Iconology: An Archaeology of Image Experience and Response
  • Conclusions. On the Huaca
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Lisa Trever is the Lisa and Bernard Selz Associate Professor in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology at Columbia University. She is the author of The Archaeology of Mural Painting at Pañamarca, Peru and coeditor of El arte antes de la historia: Para una historia del arte andino antiguo.