Advertisement

Trophy Head-Taking and Human Sacrifice in Andean South America

  • John W. Verano

Human sacrifice took many forms in ancient South America. Individuals were killed and placed in tombs to accompany important persons in the afterlife, buried as dedicatory offerings in monumental buildings, and offered in various contexts as gifts to the gods. Captives were taken in small-scale raiding and in organized warfare, and executed in both formal rituals and impromptu reprisals. In some cases, body parts were collected from dead enemies and modified for various uses.

Sacrificial practices can be reconstructed from both indirect and direct sources. Indirect sources include historic accounts of trophy taking (such as the Jívaro of tropical Ecuador), descriptions of sacrificial practices recorded by Spanish and native chroniclers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and depictions of sacrifice and trophy taking in ancient South American art. Indirect sources must be used with caution: ethnohistoric accounts have various inherent sources of bias (Rowe 1946; Salomon and Urioste 1991; Adorno 2000), and iconographic depictions of human sacrifice often reference mythical or metaphoric elements (Cordy-Collins 1992; Proulx 2001).

Archaeological evidence of retainer and dedicatory burials, mass graves, and isolated body parts constitute direct evidence of sacrificial practices. The careful analysis of human remains from these contexts is important in distinguishing between sacrificial practices and standard mortuary behavior. Direct archaeological evidence of human sacrifice is therefore important in confirming or questioning events inferred from ethnohistoric and iconographic sources. Fortunately, the database of physical evidence of human sacrifice in Central Andean South America has grown substantially in recent years, thanks to field projects with an increasing focus on the careful excavation and curation of human remains and laboratory analyses of this material. This review will focus primarily on Central Andean South America, where the ethnohistoric and archaeological records are most detailed.

Keywords

Mass Grave Archaeological Record Archaeological Evidence North Coast Human Remains 
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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adorno, Rolena, 2000, Guaman Poma: Writing and Resistance in Colonial Peru. Second edition. Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  2. Alva, Walter, and Christopher B. Donnan, 1993, Royal Tombs of Sipán. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  3. Andrews, Anthony P., 1974, The U-shaped structures at Chan Chan, Peru. Journal of Field Archaeology 1: 241–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baraybar, José Pablo, 1987, Cabezas trofeo nasca: nuevas evidencias. Gaceta Arqueológica Andina 15: 6–10.Google Scholar
  5. Bauer, Brian S., 1998, The Sacred Landscape of the Inca: The Cusco Ceque System. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  6. Benson, Elizabeth P., 2001, Why Sacrifice? In Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Anita G. Cook, pp. 1–20. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  7. Blom, Deborah E. and John W. Janusek, 2004, Making place: humans as dedications in Tiwanaku. World Archaeology 36 (1): 123–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blom, Deborah E., John W. Janusek, and Jane Buikstra, 2003, A re-evaluation of human remains from Tiwanaku. In Tiwanaku and Its Hinterland: Archaeology and Paleoecology of an Andean Civilization, Vol. 2, Urban and Rural Archaeology, edited by Alan L. Kolata, pp. 435–448. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  9. Bourget, Steve, 1997, Las excavaciones en la Plaza 3a. In Investigaciones en la Huaca de la Luna 1995, edited by Santiago Uceda, Elias Mujica and Ricardo Morales, pp. 51–59. Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Peru.Google Scholar
  10. Bourget, Steve, 2001, Rituals of sacrifice: its practice at Huaca de la Luna and its representation in Moche iconography. In Moche Art and Archaeology in Ancient Peru, edited by Joanne Pillsbury, pp. 89–109. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  11. Bourget, Steve, and Jean François Millaire, 2000, Excavaciones en la Plaza 3A y Plataforma II de la Huaca de la Luna. In Investigaciones en la Huaca de la Luna 1997, edited by Santiago Uceda, Elias Mujica and Ricardo Morales, pp. 47–60. Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Peru.Google Scholar
  12. Bray, Tamara L., Leah D. Minc, María Constanza Ceruti, José Antonio Chávez, Ruddy Perea, and Johan Reinhard, 2005, A compositional analysis of pottery vessels associated with the Inca ritual of capacocha. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24 (1): 82–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Browne, David M., Helaine Silverman, and Rubén García, 1993, A cache of 48 Nasca trophy heads from Cerro Carapo, Peru. Latin American Antiquity 4: 274–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bruce, Susan Lee, 1986, The audiencia room of the Huaca 1 complex. In The Pacatnamu Papers, edited by Christopher B. Donnan and Guillermo A. Cock, pp. 95–108. Museum of Cultural History, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  15. Buikstra, Jane E, 1995, Tombs for the living…or…for the dead: the Osmore ancestors. In Tombs for the Living: Andean Mortuary Practices, edited by Tom D. Dillehay, pp. 229–280. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  16. Castner, James Lee, 2002, Shrunken Heads: Tsantsa Trophies and Human Exotica. Feline Press, Gainesville.Google Scholar
  17. Ceruti, María Constanza, 2003, Llullaillaco: Sacrificios y Ofrendas en un Santuario Inca de Alta Montaña. Ediciones Universidad Católica de Salta, Salta, Argentina.Google Scholar
  18. Ceruti, María Constanza, 2004, Human bodies as objects of dedication at Inca mountain shrines (north-western Argentina). World Archaeology 36 (1): 103–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cobo, Bernabé, 1990, Inca Religion and Customs. Translated by R. Hamilton. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  20. Coehlo, Vera Penteado, 1972, Enterramentos de Cabecas de Cultura Nasca. Ph.D. dissertation. Universdade de Sao Paulo, Brazil.Google Scholar
  21. Conrad, Geoffrey W., 1982, The burial platforms of Chan Chan: some social and political implications. In Chan Chan: Andean Desert City, edited by Michael E. Moseley and Kent C. Day, pp. 87–117. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.Google Scholar
  22. Cordy-Collins, Alana, 1992, Archaism or tradition? The decapitation theme in Cupisnique and Moche iconography. Latin American Antiquity 3: 206–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. D’Altroy, Terence N., 2002, The Incas. Blackwell, Malden, MA.Google Scholar
  24. Day, Kent C., 1982, Ciudadelas: their form and function. In Chan Chan: Andean Desert City, edited by Michael E. Moseley and Kent C. Day, pp. 55–66. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.Google Scholar
  25. Doyon, Leon G., 2002, Conduits of ancestry: interpretation of the geography, geology, and seasonality of North Andean shaft tombs. In The Space and Place of Death, edited by Helaine Silverman and David B. Small, pp. 79–95. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, No. 11.Google Scholar
  26. Faulkner, David K., 1986, The mass burial: an entomological perspective. In The Pacatnamu Papers, edited by Christopher B. Donnan and Guillermo A. Cock, pp. 145–150. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  27. Guaman Poma de Ayala, Felipe, 1980, Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno. 2 vols. Edition of Franklin Pease G. Y. Biblioteca Ayacucho, Caracas, Venezuela.Google Scholar
  28. Guillén, Sonia, 1992, The Chinchorro Culture: Mummies and Crania in the Reconstruction of Preceramic Coastal Adaptation in the South-Central Andes. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
  29. Ihering, Rodolpho von, 1907, Las cabezas mumificadas pelos indios Mundurucús. Revista do Museu Paulista 7: 179–201.Google Scholar
  30. Keatinge, Richard W. and Geoffrey W. Conrad, 1983, Imperialist expansion in Peruvian prehistory: Chimu administration of a conquered territory. Journal of Field Archaeology 10: 255–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kellner, Corina Marie, 2002, Coping with Environmental and Social Challenges in Prehistoric Peru: Bioarchaeological Analyses of Nasca Populations. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara.Google Scholar
  32. MacCormack, Sabine, 1991, Religion in the Andes: Vision and Imagination in Early Colonial Peru. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.Google Scholar
  33. Mackey, Carol J. and A. M. Ulana Klymshyn, 1990, Southern frontier of the Chimu empire. In Northern Dynasties: Kingship and Statecraft in Chimor, edited by Michael E. Moseley and Alana Cordy-Collins, pp. 195–226. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  34. Menzel, Dorothy, 1976, Pottery Style and Society in Ancient Peru. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  35. Millaire, Jean-François, 2002, Moche Burial Patterns: An Investigation Into Prehispanic Social Structure. BAR International Series, 1066. Archaeopress, Oxford, England.Google Scholar
  36. Millaire, Jean-François, 2004, The manipulation of human remains in Moche society: delayed burials, grave reopening, and secondary offerings of human bones on the Peruvian north coast. Latin American Antiquity 15 (4): 371–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Neira, Máximo and Vera P. Coelho, 1972, Enterramientos de cabezas de la cultura Nasca. Revista do Museu Paulista 20: 109–142.Google Scholar
  38. Owsley, Douglas W. and Richard L. Jantz, 1994, Skeletal Biology in the Great Plains: Migration, Warfare, Health, and Subsistence. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  39. Pozorski, Thomas G., 1980, Las Avispas: plataforma funeraria. In Chanchan, edited by Rogger Ravines, pp. 231–242. Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, Lima.Google Scholar
  40. Proulx, Donald A., 1989, Nasca trophy heads: victims of warfare or ritual sacrifice? In Cultures in Conflict: Current Archaeological Perspectives, edited by Diana C. Tkaczuk and Brian C. Vivian, pp. 73–85. University of Calgary Archaeological Association, Calgary.Google Scholar
  41. Proulx, Donald A., 2001, Ritual uses of trophy heads in ancient Nasca society. In Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Anita G. Cook, pp. 119–136. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  42. Rea, Amadeo M., 1986, Black vultures and human victims: archaeological evidence from Pacatnamu. In The Pacatnamu Papers: Volume 1, edited by Christopher B. Donnan and Guillermo A. Cock, pp. 139–144. Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  43. Reinhard, Johan and Constanza Ceruti, 2000, Pilgrimage, sacred mountains, and human sacrifice among the Incas. Paper presented in the Pre-Columbian symposium “Pilgrimage and Ritual Landscape in Pre-Columbian America”. Dumbarton Oaks Research Collection and Library, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  44. Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, Maria, 1999, History of the Inca Realm. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York.Google Scholar
  45. Rowe, John H., 1946, Inca culture at the time of the Spanish conquest. In Handbook of South American Indians, Vol. 2, The Andean Civilizations, edited by Julian H. Steward, pp. 183–330. Bulletin 143. Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  46. Salomon, Frank and George L. Urioste, 1991, The Huarochirí Manuscript: A Testament of Ancient and Colonial Andean Religion. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  47. Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro, 1942, Historia de los Incas. Emecé, Buenos Aires.Google Scholar
  48. Seeman, Mark F., 1988, Ohio Hopewell trophy-skull artifacts as evidence for competition in Middle Woodland societies circa 50 B.C.- A.D. 350. American Antiquity 53: 565–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Silverman, Helaine, 1993, Cahuachi in the Ancient Nasca World. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City.Google Scholar
  50. Silverman, Helaine, and Donald A. Proulx, 2002, The Nasca. Blackwell, Malden, MA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stirling, Matthew W., 1938, Historical and Ethnographical Material on the Jivaro Indians. Bulletin 117. Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  52. Tello, Julio C., 1918, El Uso de las Cabezas Humanas Artificialmente Momificadas y Su Representación en el Antiguo Arte Peruano. Ernesto R. Villaran, Lima.Google Scholar
  53. Tung, Tiffiny A., 2003, A Bioarchaeological Perspective on Wari Imperialism in the Andes of Peru: A View from Heartland and Hinterland Skeletal Populations. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  54. Verano, John W., 1986, A mass burial of mutilated individuals at Pacatnamu. In The Pacatnamu Papers, Volume 1, edited by Christopher B. Donnan and Guillermo A. Cock, pp. 117–138. Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  55. 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, edited by Tom D. Dillehay, pp. 189–227. Dumbarton Oaks Research Collection and Library, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  56. Verano, John W., 1997, Human skeletal remains from Tomb I, Sipán (Lambayeque river valley, Peru) and their social implications. Antiquity 71 (273): 670–682.Google Scholar
  57. Verano, John W., 2001, The physical evidence of human sacrifice in ancient Peru. In Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Anita G. Cook, pp. 165–184. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  58. Verano, John W., 2001, War and death in the Moche world: osteological evidence and visual discourse. In Moche Art and Archaeology in Ancient Peru, edited by Joanne Pillsbury, pp. 111–125. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  59. Verano, John W., Santiago Uceda, Claude Chapdelaine, Ricardo Tello, Maria Isabel Paredes, and Victor Pimentel, 1999, Modified human skulls from the urban sector of the Pyramids of Moche, northern Peru. Latin American Antiquity 10 (1): 59–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Verano, John W. and J. Marla Toyne, 2005, Ritual Sacrifice or Reprisal Killing? The Case of Punta Lobos, a Late Intermediate Period Mass Burial from the Huarmey Valley, Northern Peru. Paper presented at the 45th annual meeting of the Institute of Andean Studies, Berkeley, California.Google Scholar
  61. Verano, John W. and Héctor Walde, 2004, A Mass Human Sacrifice at Punta Lobos, Huarmey River Valley, Northern Coastal Peru. Paper read at 31st Annual Meeting of the Paleopathology Association, at Tampa, Florida.Google Scholar
  62. Verano, John W. and Moisés Tufinio, n.d., Plaza 3C. In Investigaciones en la Huaca de la Luna 2000, edited by Santiago Uceda, Elias Mujica and Ricardo Morales. Universidad Nacional de Trujillo.Google Scholar
  63. 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. Fieldiana: Anthropology N.S. 33: 1–132.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • John W. Verano
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

Personalised recommendations