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THROUGH SEPTEMBER 17
When they vanished from the coast of what is now Peru more than a millennium ago, the Moche left no trace of a written language. Yet they provided a detailed record of their civilization nonetheless. It can be read in the elaborate decoration on pottery and tapestries, the imagery on jewelry, headdresses, and scepters—as clear in their depiction of the people’s fierce, part-animal gods as the icons on any fast-food movie tie-in cups. Apparently as cruel as their successors, the Incas, the Moche practiced human sacrifice, ritually capturing blood in intricate vessels crafted from copper, silver, and gold. This exhibit of artifacts ordinarily on display in a Peruvian museum explains how the objects were discovered and recovered from the Royal Tombs of Sipán, but it’s the Moche’s own handiwork that offers the more tantalizing, if incomplete, tale. At the Museum of Natural History, 10th & Constitution Ave. NW. (202) 357-3030. (Mark Jenkins)