Mortuary Assemblages from Uraca, an early Wari-era Cemetery in the Majes Valley of Arequipa, Peru

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

During the Andean Middle Horizon (600 - 1000 AD), the spread of the Wari Empire across the Peruvian Andes caused rapid political and economic restructuring, which in turn effected changes in diets, religious practices, and mortuary customs in many regions throughout Peru. Research so far in the south-coastal Majes Valley (Department of Arequipa) suggests that the spread of Wari influence did not change dietary practices. However, social hierarchization seems to have intensified during the Middle Horizon in the Majes Valley, and mortuary customs seem to have become more complex. Recent excavations at Uraca, a cemetery site with sectors spanning the Middle Horizon, show similarities in tomb construction, body position and treatment, and preference for certain types of textile offerings across sectors. However, the northern and southern sectors exhibit differences in ceramic types, animal offerings, textile implements, rates of cranial trauma, and styles and methods of manufacture of human trophy head offerings. The differences observed may be due to different dates of use, or due to the cemetery sectors being reserved for different social groups (i.e. commoners vs. elites; warriors or priests vs. craftsmen, etc.) during the same time period.

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  • Documents (5)

  • Belt-making traditions and identity at the site of Uraca, Majes Valley, Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Samantha Seyler.

    This poster examines belt fragments recovered from the mortuary site of Uraca in the Majes Valley, Arequipa, Peru. The textiles utilized in this analysis were recovered during excavations in Sector I to the south, where interments were placed on a high bluff, and Sector II to the north, where interments were placed closer to the valley bottom. These sectors are not only defined by their geographical separation but also the variation in artifact and skeletal assemblages present between the two...

  • Landscapes of Violence: Trophy Head Production and Interpersonal Violence during the Wari era in the Middle Majes Valley, Arequipa, Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cassandra Koontz.

    The Middle Horizon (600 - 1000 AD) is known as a period of increased social hierarchization, changing mortuary customs, and high rates of interpersonal violence in many regions of the prehistoric Peruvian Andes. This project compares rates and types of violent practices (antemortem, peri-mortem, and postmortem violent dismemberment) between the northern and southern sectors at the recently excavated Middle Horizon cemetery site of Uraca in the middle Majes Valley to skeletal data from the early...

  • Spinning in the Middle Horizon: Spindle Whorls from the Site of Uraca in the Majas Valley (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan Allen.

    Textiles were a major economic component in the prehistoric Andes. Mortuary evidence indicates an association between women and textile production. While spinning may have been an activity undertaken by both men and women, women dominated the produced domestic textiles and therefore were often buried with textile related tools. Spindle whorls from mortuary contexts can be used to determine the quality of the final cloth. Smaller spindle whorls produce a finer quality of yarn for elite products...

  • Trophies of Violence: The Manufacturing and Processing of Human Trophy Heads at Uraca (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Adam Birge. Cassandra Koontz.

    Human trophy heads appear in the iconography of prehistoric Andean ceramics, weavings, and statuary as early as the Late Formative (400 BC – AD 100), and actual trophy heads are not uncommon bioarchaeological finds in south-coastal Peru. Human trophy heads were prepared by cleaving the head from the body, cutting the occipital and parietal bones to remove the brain, drilling holes in the frontal bone, and threading that hole with a carrying cord for display. At the Middle Horizon cemetery of...

  • Variations in Cranial Vault Modification at Uraca, Majes Valley, Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Aric Archebelle-Smith. Cassandra S. Koontz. Lisseth Rojas Pelayo. Manuel Angel Mamani.

    Cranial vault modification was a prevalent type of body modification practiced throughout the ancient Andes. It was achieved by binding the head during childhood, which left the crania permanently altered into adulthood. Different methods of binding led to visually different forms of modification, which likely marked membership in different ethnic groups. Researchers have documented three major modification styles in the Andes: tabular oblique, tabular erect, and circumferential. Recent...