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Ritual for the Ancestors or Acts of Violence: Biocultural assessment of culturally modified human remains 

Author(s): Meaghan Kincaid ; Ryan Harrod ; Aaron Woods

Year: 2016

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A number of culturally modified human remains from three sites in Utah were reanalyzed with a biocultural approach that considered the poetics of violence and the role bodies play in cultural memory. The remains analyzed consisted of twenty-two individuals affiliated with the Fremont and Northern San Juan Puebloan cultures. The focus of this study was to transcend the surficial evidence of dismemberment and mutilation, and to view these bodies as cultural artifacts that could provide deeper insight into how these cultures viewed their dead in the context of culturally modified human remains. We also examined these cultures’ depictions of bodies in rock art and figurines to better inform the interpretation of the bodies themselves and the motivations behind body processing. While anthropophagy has often been cited as the explanation for human remain processing in this region, other explanations have been suggested (warfare, witchcraft killing, or ancestor veneration) which may not be inherently violent within the culture. Trauma distribution, cut mark analysis, ethnographic accounts, and site context indicate that there is variation across sites and cultures that highlight the possibility for multiple functions of processed human remains in the prehistoric Great Basin and Southwest.

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Ritual for the Ancestors or Acts of Violence: Biocultural assessment of culturally modified human remains . Meaghan Kincaid, Ryan Harrod, Aaron Woods. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403085)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -122.761; min lat: 29.917 ; max long: -109.27; max lat: 42.553 ;

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