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

Author(s): Sofia Pacheco-Fores

Year: 2015

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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.

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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)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America