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Throats are cut with a gilded tumi

Throats are cut with a gilded tumi.

...and blood drunk from ritual goblets.

Temple of Doom - Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru, which is set to open in the Otago Museum's Special Exhibitions Gallery on 28 February, will unearth the mysteries of human sacrifice, power struggles, unimaginable treasures and supernatural deities of one of the world's great lost civilizations - the Moche (pronounced Mow-chey).

Without a written language, the Moche people, who occupied the north coast of Peru for almost 800 years from 50AD, used art to record events. Most of the objects were excavated from unlooted tombs and were made by the most gifted artists for the exclusive use of the elite. As well as being beautiful in their own right, these objects are symbols of the supernatural, instruments of power and providers of wealth.

Most notable of the objects in the exhibition are the exquisite metal works and pottery. Their ceramics, which detail rituals involving hunting, fishing, sex, agricultural production and medicine, also depict the rite of human sacrifice - from warriors in combat to the act of sacrifice itself.

Ritual sacrifices were performed to assure prosperity and protect society from natural disasters, disease and war. Young warriors defeated in ritual combat went to their deaths in the belief that their sacrifice protected society from harm and fuelled the supernatural power of their rulers. As human sacrifice was the most valuable offering and blood was the symbol of life, the warriors' throats were cut with a gilded tumi (a sacrificial blade) and their blood was drunk from ritual goblets.

Make the most of this amazing opportunity to journey to a land before Inca and witness incredible human riches and rituals - walk through scenes of ritual combat, make your way up and in to the Pyramid of the Moon and experience the anticipation felt by the sacrificial warriors.

Visitors to Temple of Doom will also have the option to hear in depth commentaries about the ritual of sacrifice. The audio tour provokes thought about life within the Moche culture of ancient Peru and is an invaluable tool in understanding the mystery behind this complex society and its rituals.

This extraordinary exhibition will be on display in the Special Exhibitions Gallery from 28 February until 23 May. Admission charges apply (audio tours extra). Temple of Doom is toured by the Larco Museum with the support of the Peruvian National Institute of Culture. The exhibition is made possible with the support of the Community Trust of Otago and is indemnified by the New Zealand Government.

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