Examining ethnohistory: Cranial modification and social status in pre-Hispanic Inca Peru

Author(s): Sofia Pacheco-Fores

Year: 2015


The social meaning of cranial modification in the Andes has long been debated. Ethnohistoric accounts recorded by Spanish priests and travelers after the conquest assert that within Inca Peru, the practice of cranial modification was related to social status. They claimed that the Inca royal family preferred a particular head shape, and only certain noble families were permitted to reproduce that shape. In contrast, non-elite Inca supposedly practiced strictly local traditions of cranial modification. These claims are routinely cited within modern bioarchaeological reviews of the practice. Such uncritical acceptance of Spanish reports is problematic, given that these accounts are frequently inaccurate, internally inconsistent, and culturally biased. As such, this study aims to determine whether such ethnohistoric accounts of cranial modification are supported by bioarchaeological evidence. Mortuary and cranial data were collected on 361 individuals from several Imperial Inca period (1400-1532 CE) sites. In addition to assessing the veracity of colonial ethnohistoric accounts, this study seeks to gain a deeper understanding both of Inca society and of the practice of cranial modification.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit http://www.tdar.org/SAA2015 for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Examining ethnohistory: Cranial modification and social status in pre-Hispanic Inca Peru. Sofia Pacheco-Fores. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397901)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;