Disarticulated and Disturbed, Processed and Eaten? Cautionary Notes from the La Plata Assemblage (AD 1000–1150)

  • Debra L. Martin
  • Nancy J. Akins
  • H. Wolcott Toll
Chapter

Abstract

The La Plata River Valley in northern New Mexico was occupied by Ancestral Puebloan people. Population size peaked in Pueblo II/III (ad 1025–1125), and the area was abandoned by ad 1300. Human remains were recovered from excavations at 17 sites in the La Plata Valley during a highway construction project. Three sites in particular had many disarticulated and commingled human remains. While these remains were reported to be the result of cannibalism by one set of researchers, the analysis presented here suggests a different interpretation. Using a rigorous methodology that can be applied to any disarticulated assemblage with breakage and processing, data from the context and taphonomy of the broken and fragmentary bones revealed that only one of the sites could possibly be considered to have had ritualistic processing and possible cannibalism. The other two disarticulated assemblages were due to human removal of burials in ancient times as well as modern construction and carnivore damage and burial disturbance. Overzealous inclusion of deposits like that from these latter two sites will obscure any real patterning and hamper attempts to understand the conditions that produced such behavior.

Keywords

Burning Depression Sandstone Drilling Calcination 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Debra L. Martin
    • 1
  • Nancy J. Akins
    • 2
  • H. Wolcott Toll
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Nevada, Las VegasLas VegasUSA
  2. 2.Museum of New Mexico Office of Archaeological StudiesSanta FeUSA

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