From Corporeality to Sanctity

Transforming Bodies into Trophy Heads in the Pre-Hispanic Andes


The taking, transforming, and displaying of human heads and other body parts has a long tradition in the Andes, beginning at least as early as 1300 BC and extending in most areas up until the European invasion in the sixteenth century. In southern Ecuador, the Jivaro continued this practice until the mid-twentieth century or later (Harner 1972).


Human Head Frontal Bone Skeletal Remains Strontium Isotope Occipital Bone 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Benson, Elizabeth P., and Anita G. Cook. (2001). Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  2. Blom, Deborah, E., John W. Janusek, and Jane Buikstra, E. (2003). A reevaluation of human remains from Tiwanaku. In: Tiwanaku and Its Hinterland: Archaeology and Paleoecology of an Andean Civilization, Volume 2. A. Kolata (ed). Pp. 435–446. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bolin, Inge. (1998). Rituals of Respect: The Secret of Survival in the High Peruvian Andes. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bourget, Steve. (2001). Children and ancestors: ritual practices at the Moche site of Huaca de la Luna, north coast of Peru. In: Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru. E. P. Benson and A. G. Cook (eds). Pp. 93–118. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  5. Browne, David M., Helaine Silverman, and Rubén García. (1993). A cache of 48 Nasca trophy heads from Cerro Carapo, Peru. Latin American Antiquity 4(3):274–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burger, Richard L. (1984). The Prehistoric Occupation of Chavin de Huántar, Peru, Volume 14. University of California Press.Google Scholar
  7. Burger, Richard L. (1992). Chavin and the Origins of Andean Civilization. New York: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  8. Burger, Richard L., and Nikolaas J. van der Merwe. (1990). Maize and the origins of highland Chavin civilization: an isotopic perspective. American Anthropologist 92:85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carmichael, Patrick H. (1988). Nasca Mortuary Customs: Death and Ancient Society on the South Coast of Peru. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Calgary.Google Scholar
  10. Coehlo, Vera, P. (1972). Enterramentos de Cabecas de Cultura Nasca. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.Google Scholar
  11. Cook, Anita G. (1994). Wari y Tiwanaku: Entre el Estilo y la Imagen. Lima: Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú.Google Scholar
  12. Cook, Anita G. (2001). Huari D-shaped structures, sacrificial offerings, and divine rulership. In: Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru. E. Benson and A. G. Cook (eds.). Pp. 137–163. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cordy-Collins, Alana. (2001). Decapitation in Cuspisnique and early Moche societies. In: Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru. E. P. Benson and A. G. Cook (eds). Pp. 21–34. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  14. Drusini, Andrea G., and J. P. Baraybar. (1991). Anthropological study of Nasca trophy heads. Homo 41(3):251–265.Google Scholar
  15. Engel, Frederick. (1963). A Pre-Ceramic settlement on the central coast of Peru: Asia, Unit 1. American Philosophical Society 53(3):1–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forgey, Kathleen. (2005). Osteological and Ancient DNA Analyses of Human Trophy Heads and Comparative Skeletal Material from the South Coast of Peru: Origins and Function in Early Nasca Society (ad 1–450). Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  17. Forgey, Kathleen, and Sloan Williams. (2004). Ancient DNA Study of Nasca Trophy Heads. Montreal: The Society for American Archaeology.Google Scholar
  18. Foucault, Michel. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  19. Foucault, Michel. (1978). The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  20. Grupe, Gisela, T. D. Price, P. Schroter, F. Sollner, C. M. Johnson, and B. L. Beard. (1997). Mobility of Bell Beaker people revealed by strontium isotope ratios of tooth and bone: a study of southern Bavarian skeletal remains. Applied Geochemsitry 12:517–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Guaman Poma de Ayala, Felipe, John V. Murra, Rolena Adorno, and Jorge Urioste. (1987) [1615]. Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno. Madrid: Historia 16.Google Scholar
  22. Harner, Michael J. (1972). The Jívaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls. Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Natural History Press. Published for the American Museum of Natural History.Google Scholar
  23. Hartmann, Roswith. (1972). Otros datos sobre las llamadas “batallas rituales.” Actas y Memorias del XXXIX Congreso Internacional de Americanistas 6:125–135.Google Scholar
  24. Hartweg, Raoul. (1958). Les squelettes des sites sans ceramique de la cote du Perou. I. Journal de la Société des Américanistes 47:179–202.Google Scholar
  25. Hillson, Simon. (1996).Dental Anthropology. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Isbell, William Harris, and Anita G. Cook. (2002). A new perspective on Conchopata and the Andean Middle Horizon. In: Andean Archaeology II: Art, Landscape, and Society. H. Silverman and W. H. Isbell (eds). Pp. 249–305. New York: Kluwer Academic Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kellner, Corina, M. (2002). Coping with Environmental and Social Challenges in Prehistoric Peru: Bioarchaeological Analyses of Nasca Populations. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara.Google Scholar
  28. Kelly, Raymond C. (2000). Warless Societies and the Origin of War. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  29. Knudson, Kelly J., and Tiffiny A. Tung. (in press). Using archaeological chemistry to investigate the geographic origins of trophy heads in the central Andes. In Archaeological Chemistry: Analytical Techniques and Archaeological Interpretation. M. D. Glascock, R. J. Speakman, and R. Popelka-Filcoff (eds).Google Scholar
  30. Lumbreras, Luis Guillermo. (1981). The stratigraphy of the open sites. In: Prehistory of the Ayacucho Basin, Peru. Pp. 167–198. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  31. Manzanilla, Linda. (1992). Akapana: Una Pirámide en el Centro del Mundo. México, DF: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.Google Scholar
  32. Mégard, F., Donald C. Noble, Edwin H. McKee, and Herve Bellon. (1984). Multiple pulses of Neogene compressive deformation in the Ayacucho intermontane basin, Andes of central Peru. Geological Society of America Bulletin 95:1108–1117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. (1962). The Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  34. Mulhearn, Dawn M. (2000). Rib remodeling dynamics in a skeletal population from Kulubnarti, Nubia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 111(4):519–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mulhearn, Dawn M., and Dennis P. Van Gerven. (1997). Patterns of femoral bone remodeling dynamics in a medieval Nubian population. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 104(1):133–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Neira Avendano, Maximo, and Vera Penteado Coelho. (1972). Enterramientos de cabezas de la Cultura Nasca. Revista do Museo Paulista 20:109–142.Google Scholar
  37. Neira, Máximo, and Vera Coehlo, P. (1972). Enterramientos de cabezas de la cultura Nasca. Revista do Museo Paulista 20:109–142.Google Scholar
  38. Ochatoma, José Paravicino, and Martha Romero Cabrera. (2002). Religious ideology and military organization in the iconography of a D-shaped ceremonial precinct at Conchopata. In: Andean Archaeology II: Art, Landscape, and Society. H. Silverman and W. H. Isbell (eds). Pp. 225–247. New York: Kluwer Academic Press.Google Scholar
  39. Orlove, Bejamin. (1994). Sticks and stones: ritual battles and play in the Southern Peruvian Andes. In: Unruly Order: Violence, Power, and Cultural Identity in the High Provinces of Southern Peru. D. Pool (ed). Pp. 133–164. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  40. Price, T. Douglas, James Burton, H., and R Alexander Bentley. (2002). The characterization of biologically available strontium isotope ratios for the study of prehistoric migration. Archaeometry 44(1):117–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Price, T. Douglas, C. M. Johnson, J. A. Ezzo, E. Ericson, and James H. Burton. (1994). Residential mobility in the prehistoric southwest United States: a preliminary study using strontium isotope analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science 21:315–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Proulx, Donald A. (1971). Headhunting in ancient Peru. Archaeology. 24(1):16–21.Google Scholar
  43. Proulx, Donald A. (1989). Nasca trophy heads: victims of warfare or ritual sacrifice? In: Cultures in Conflict: Current Archaeological Perspectives. Pp. 73–85. Calgary: Archaeological Association, University of Calgary.Google Scholar
  44. Proulx, Donald A. (2001). Ritual uses of trophy heads in ancient Nasca society. In: Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru. E. B. P. and A. G. Coo (eds). Pp. 119–136. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  45. Reichlen Barret, Paulette. (1973). Un craneo de Chavin de Huantar, Peru. Revista del Museo Nacional 39:143–151.Google Scholar
  46. Reinhard, Johan. (1996). Peru's ice maidens: unwrapping the secrets. National Geographic 189(6):62–81.Google Scholar
  47. Schreiber, Katharina J. (1992). Wari Imperialism in Middle Horizon Peru. Museum of Anthropology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  48. Silverman, Helaine. (1993). Cahuachi in the ancient Nasca world. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.Google Scholar
  49. Silverman, Helaine, and Donald A. Proulx. (2002). The Nasca. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  50. Tung, Tiffiny A. (2003a). Bioarchaeological Analysis of Wari Trophy Heads: Evidence from Conchopata, Peru. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropology, Tempe, 2003a.Google Scholar
  51. Tung, Tiffiny A. (2003b). A Bioarchaeological Perspective on Wari Imperialism in the Andes of Peru: A View from Heartland and Hinterland Skeletal Populations. Ph.D. dissertation. University of North Carolina.Google Scholar
  52. Tung, Tiffiny A, and Anita G. Cook. (2006). Intermediate elite agency in the Wari empire: the bioarchaeological and mortuary evidence. In: Intermediate Elites in Pre-Columbian States and Empires. C. Elson and A. R. Cove (eds). Pp. 68–93. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  53. Tung, Tiffiny A., and Kelly Knudson, J. (2006). Identifying the origin of Wari trophy heads in the ancient Andes using bioarchaeology and archaeological chemistry. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Antropology, Anchorage, 2006. (n.d.). Local ancestors or foreign enemies? the origin of trophy heads from the Wari site of Conchopata. Submitted to Current Anthropology: Reports for Review.Google Scholar
  54. Verano, John W. (1995). Where do they rest? The treatment of human offerings and trophies in ancient Peru. In: Tombs for the Living: Andean Mortuary Practices. T. D. Dilleha (ed). Pp. 189–227. Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks.Google Scholar
  55. Verano, John W. (2001). The physical evidence of human sacrifice in ancient Peru. In: Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru. E. P. Benson and A. G. Cook (eds). Pp. 165–184. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  56. Vidal, Hilda. (1984). Human osteological material. In: The Prehistoric Occupation of Chavín de Huántar, Peru. Vol. 14. Richard Burger (ed). Pp. 251–253. University of California Press.Google Scholar
  57. Wachtel, Nathan. (2001). El Regreso de los Antepasados: Los Indios Urus de Bolivia, del Siglo XX al XVI. Ciudad de Mexico: El Colegio de México.Google Scholar
  58. Williams, Sloan R, Kathleen Forgey, and Elizabeth Klarich. (2001). An Osteological Study of Nasca Trophy Heads Collected by A. L. Kroeber During the Marshall Field Expeditions to Peru. Volume 33. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.Google Scholar
  59. Wise, James M. (2000). Geologic map of the northern part of the Ayacucho intermontane basin, central Peru. Unpublished map. Department of Geology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations


There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations