Secret Chambers and Thrones Discovered in Peru Linked to Ancient Civilization Famous for Highly Erotic Art

Gold Moche 'Cabeza de Mono' (monkey head). ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP/Getty Images

Two chambers discovered in Peru may reveal new insights about the political rituals of the ancient Moche civilization, which ruled on the country's desert coast around 1,500 years ago.

The chamber walls feature paintings of fish and sea lions, according to Reuters. Archaeologists reported that the chambers were likely for use by an elite ruling class only. One chamber contains two thrones, apparently where a leader and guest would dine; the other contains a circular podium from which a leader might give statements, according to Reuters. And those leaders might not necessarily have been men; experts believe that both political and religious leadership roles might have been open to Moche women. Previous excavations have unearthed depictions of female rulers, according to Reuters.

Archaeologists found the chambers in the ruins of the Limon archaeological complex, in Peru's Lambayeque region. Whatever political rituals and events took place in the chambers, they were significant enough to have been the subject of countless Moche sculptures. But the actual location of those rituals had never been identified before.

"These scenes had been depicted in the iconography of the Moche world but we had never been lucky enough to physically find where they took place," lead archaeologist Walter Alva told Reuters. "It's a very important finding."

The Moche were in power between 100 A.D and 700 A.D. That timeframe overlaps with the Nazca civilization, which created Peru's famous Nazca lines. They developed irrigation systems for growing crops in the desert, and are most associated with ornate gold jewelry and artwork, as well as with sculpture depicting a "wide variety of sexual acts," according to Reuters.

In honour of my Uni emailing to say accessing porn on the system is prohibited, but not defining what porn is, here’s a Moche erotic vessel.

— Dr Donna Yates (@DrDonnaYates) August 31, 2017

Those depictions include the full gamut of oral sex, anal sex and masturbation—basically everything except heterosexual missionary sex, which is rarely depicted, according to Atlas Obscura. Moche ceramics also depict a vast number of other human and animal narratives like hunting, sacrificial ceremonies and acts of war. The pottery is world-renowned, but its purpose as a whole is still a matter of some debate, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's likely that some were funerary offerings. Some pieces with religious motifs may have been used to communicate various political agendas, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The civilization's collapse was mysterious and believed to have been abrupt. A leading theory proposes that the Moche fell due to a natural disaster like El Niño, Reutersreported. The archaeologists found that a portion of one chamber was still under construction in the fifth century A.D., when it appeared to have been suddenly abandoned.