Ancient Moche feathered shield found in Peru temple

Archaeologists have discovered a rare feathered shield, dating back around 1,300 years, in a sealed portion of an ancient temple in Peru.

Last Updated: Aug 06, 2013, 10:22 AM IST

New York: Archaeologists have discovered a rare feathered shield, dating back around 1,300 years, in a sealed portion of an ancient temple in Peru.

The shield, believed to be made by the Moche people, was found face down on a sloped surface that had been turned into a bench or altar at the site of Panamarca.

Located near two ancient murals, the shield measures about 10 inches in diameter and has a base made of carefully woven basketry with a handle.

The surface is covered with red-and-brown textiles along with about a dozen yellow feathers that were sewn on and appear to be from the body of a macaw, `LiveScience` reported.

The shield would have served a ritualistic rather than a practical use, and the placement of the shield on the bench or altar appears to have been the last act carried out before this space was sealed and a new, larger, temple built on top of it.

The discovery of this small shield, combined with the discovery of other small Moche shields and depictions of them in art, may also shed light on Moche combat.

Their shields may have been used in ceremonial performances or ritualised battles similar to gladiatorial combat, Lisa Trever, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told the website.

Originally, the shield may have held more than 100 feathers arranged in concentric circles, Trever said.

The Moche people, who lived on the desert coasts and irrigated valleys of the Pacific side of the Andes Mountains, likely had to import the feathers, as macaws resided on the eastern side of the Andes, closer to the Amazon.

However, whatever symbolic meaning the macaw had for the Moche remains a mystery.

It appears as if the Moche liked to keep their shields small, bringing up the question of whether they were meant for something like gladiatorial combat or some other type of fighting.

Regardless of why the Moche preferred small shields, their repeated depiction indicates the shields served their purpose well.

They "did seem to use very small shields compared to what we know of from other parts of the world, but they seemed to have served for the style of battle that they performed," Trever said.

The study was published in Nawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology.

PTI