Moche Face Mask
c.500 AD, Moche culture, 18 x 16 cm (enlarge for full view)
This Moche ceramic depicting there god Ai Apec(Al Paec) as a wrinkled human with Jaguar fanged elements is the Shaman in transformation, and his headdress further emphasises the cult of the feline in its Jaguar or Puma representation. This Ai Apec deity has characteristics which separate him from the other depictions of shamans. Round eyes, elongated fangs, heavily and ferocious wrinkled face and the jaguar headdress are his principal elements. The most common representation of Ai Apaec is that seen in the murals of the Temples of the moon and sun, which presents an anthropomorphic face with feline fangs and surrounding ocean waves. Al Paec, as a typical icon in Moche art, was considered to dwell in the high mountains.
Felines of the type depicted on this vessel are important in Moche art and culture because they are associated with the ruling deities. In nature, such animals are often excellent hunters who occupy the top of the food chain, qualities that are also valued in human rulers. Felines, like jaguars and pumas, were also thought to enjoy great spiritual force; and shamans shamans were believed to transform into such creatures.