300 AD - 600 AD

Ai Apaec

Museo Larco

“The heroic ancestor of the Moche”
Museo Larco / 2013

Ai Apaec

The ancestor of the Moche

He wears a crown with a jaguar head and bird plumes. These symbolize his male ancestry related to the external world, to the upper world, to the Sun. He wears ear-ornaments and a belt with snake heads that symbolize his female ancestry related to the inner world, to the subterranean world, to the Mother Earth (Pachamama). He travels through the different worlds, fighting with creatures of the seas and of the darkness... He obtains new powers to get through and to be able to go where no other human being can go.

Our HERO is in the land of the ancestors: the inner world. He finds the Goddess of the Earth (Pachamama) and fertilizes her. 

Ai Apaec copulates with a woman. Below them, the stepped motif refers to the world of the ancestors.

Our hero returns to the earth, already golden, warm, radiant and solar. Ai Apaec is portrayed as corn, which boiled and fermented becomes the “chicha”, the ceremonial drink. He also manifests himself as chili pepper or “uchu”, fruit that heats and cures at the same time. Plenty of power, he starts his heroic journey through the worlds again.

Ai Apaec growing from within a corn cob.
Ai Apaec with chili-peppers growing from his body. He holds a plant of lima-beans  and chili-peppers.

With the power of the sun, Ai Apaec will travel through the mountains, to the valleys, and to the litoral. He will then enter the humid and dark world of the ocean where dangers and confrontations await for him.

Inside this vase episodes of Ai Apaec´s journey to the inner world and his combats with maritime creatures, are portrayed.

His dog helps him through the transits, to cross borders, to cross every threshold, announcing the forthcoming dangers. He is always a loyal and smart companion. 

Ai Apaec´s loyal compannion: his dog.

And Ai Apaec begins his journey through the sea. He arrives to the shore invested with his feline and bird powers, and confronts the Sea Urchin who guards the entrance to the sea, and defeats him. Then Ai Apaec fights with the Blowfish to get the crown with the powers of the Owl, which will give him the power to see in the darkness of the depths. 

In this vase episodes of combat between Ai Apaec and the blow-fish and the Strombus creature are portrayed.
Ai Apaec with the body of the blow-fish that was defeated in combat.
Ai Apaec with the crown of the owl.

In the deep waters, Ai Apaec with his knives and spears fights against the Strombus, a sea spiral-shaped monster, which resembles the cycle of water. Ai Apaec captures him… 

Ai Apaec emerging from the inside of a Strombus shell defeated in combat in the deep waters.

…and then arrives to the islands. The crab helps him climb the rocks and he enters the tectonic realm.

Ai Apaec with the crab climbing the rocks of the islands.

Ai Apaec offers the precious Strombus shells that he has captured in the deep waters  to the God of the Inner and Dark World who sits in his temple, dressed with the crown of the Owl. This Nocturnal God guards the vital liquid and assures our hero that the waters will come in time.

Ai Apaec presents the Strombus shell to the God of the Inner World.

Now that Ai Apaec has entered the deepest and darkest world he confronts the Decapitator God of Darkness, a creature that is a mixture of sea lion, ray and shark. It is a powerful being. They fight against each other. 

Ai Apaec fighting with the powerful creature of darkness.
The Decapitator, the powerful creature of darkness.

Ai Apec has been weakened by the fighting, and is assisted by the booby and the vulture. They help him pass to the inner world of the dead.

Ai Apaec held by the booby and the vulture entering the world of the dead.

Ai Apaec has lost his crown... but he keeps his snake ear ornaments, which enables him to enter the world of the ancestors, the world of the dead. 

Ai Apaec in the world of the dead. 

In the world of the ancestors, our HERO will be healed by the Owl-Shaman and therefore regains its solar, fertilizing and male power. He finds the Goddess of the Earth and fecundates her. From this encounter the tree of life is born, with its male and female fruits. Life is assured in our land. 

The tree of life growing from the union between Ai Apaec and the woman of the Earth.
Credits: Story

Script — Ulla Holmquist, Curator Museo Larco
Photography — Museo Larco Archives
References — Rafael Larco Hoyle, 1942. Los Mochicas.
References — Juergen Golte, 2009. Moche, Cosmología y Sociedad.
This is an interpretive exhibition aimed to reveal the relation of Moche ceramics with ancestral Andean mythology.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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