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Narration, Mediation, and Transformation: Dismembered Heads from Middle Horizon Uraca (Majes Valley, Arequipa, Peru) and the Andean Feline-Hunter Mythology

Author(s): Beth Scaffidi

Year: 2016

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Summary

Excavations of two sectors of the cemetery site of Uraca in the Lower Majes Valley (coastal Arequipa, Peru) yielded human skeletons with evidence of post-mortem processing, including defleshing, removal of the soft tissues of the eye orbit, and drilling holes into the frontal and parietal bones. The 11 beheaded individuals were young adult or adult males. In addition, 6 defleshed (and unarticulated) mandibles belonged to likely males, whose crania were not recovered. Decoration styles, processing strategies, and social use (and re-use) differed between sectors. Associated with the Sector IIC human trophies, we found a skull and paws of an indigenous pampas cat. Similar to the human trophies, the cat’s eyes had been cut out and stuffed with red cord. This paper examines these findings in light of Van Gennep’s tripartite division of death rituals into rites of separation, margin, and aggregation, as well as in light of the Andean hunter-feline mythology. I engage with the idea that making, handling, and displaying these trophies served key functions in dealing with the crisis of death, serving to communicate conquest, mediate foreign spirits/ power, and harness or transform that volatile power into a generative force for the conquering community.


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Narration, Mediation, and Transformation: Dismembered Heads from Middle Horizon Uraca (Majes Valley, Arequipa, Peru) and the Andean Feline-Hunter Mythology. Beth Scaffidi. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403088)


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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