Ocelot-Shaman Head Goblet



Ocelot-Shaman Head Goblet


Vessel, ceramic


1 - 650 AD


Early Intermediate Period
South America, Central Andes, North Coast


7 x 5 1/2 in. (17.8 x 14 cm)

Object Number



The Moche state religion, practiced between AD 1 and 750 on the North Coast of what is now Peru, featured ceremonial drinking from goblets. In the most famous ritual, the Sacrifice Ceremony, human blood was offered in a copper chalice to the high priest. Ceramic cups such as this one -- its residue tested negative for blood -- seemingly contained more prosaic liquids, probably fermented corn beer or chicha. Loose clay balls enclosed in the handle rattle when the goblet is moved, accentuating the act of drinking and then, its musical capabilities when empty. Rattling induces trance in addition to accompanying singing and dancing in shamanic healing rituals.

The subject matter is deeply shamanic as well. The cup takes the form of the head and neck of an animal-human transformational figure whose wide-open eyes indicate a trance state. The crossed fangs and headband, stretching the cat's body around the head with the tail down the back, indicate a shaman becoming feline. Although the jaguar is a typical alter ego, being the top cat of the Americas at 150-300 pounds and up to eight feet long, the spots here are not its characteristic rosettes. The long, curving, open spots signify those of the ocelot, a cat one-tenth the weight and half the length of the jaguar, but similar in its ability to climb, swim, and hunt. The ocelot would therefore aptly be the alter ego of a middle-level shaman in the hierarchy, just as the ceramic goblet's relative status would indicate.

Credit Line

Gift of William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau


MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2002 - June 2012|
'For I am the Black Jaguar': Shamanic Visionary Experience in Ancient American Art, Michael C. Carlos Museum, September 5, 2012 - January 5, 2013|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, February 9, 2013 - Present
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Art of the Andes: From Chavin to Inca (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995), 105, figure 88.|
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing With New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2002), 225, figure 515.|
Rebecca Stone-Miller, "Human-Animal Imagery, Shamanic Visions, and Ancient American Aesthetics," RES 45 (2004): 47-68.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 78.|
Rebecca Stone, Art of the Andes: From Chavin to Inca. 3rd Edition (London: Thames and Hudson, 2012), 119, figure 103.|
Rebecca Stone, The Jaguar Within: Shamanic Trance in Ancient Central and South American Art. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), Cover image, 168, figure 7.15 - 7.16.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2009.
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On View



“Ocelot-Shaman Head Goblet,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed September 18, 2020, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7422.

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