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The standardization of prehistoric cranial vault modification practices in the Andes: a 3D geometric morphometric approach

Author(s): Susan Kuzminsky ; Tiffiny Tung ; Mark Hubbe ; Antonio Villasenor-Marchal

Year: 2016

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Bioarchaeologists have long been interested in documenting the forms and techniques involved in cranial modification and exploring the larger social significance of such practices, particularly in the Andes. While such studies have enriched our understanding of head-shaping practices among pre-Hispanic populations, there has been a dearth of research that investigates the individuals who were responsible for carrying out these corporeal modifications on infants. Was the practice carried out by a specialist class tasked with developing and performing the modification techniques? Or was this practice much more individualized and done by parents or other older kin? Our study examines whether the standardization of head-shaping practices among Andean groups indicates that specialists modified infants' heads or whether group variability within general categories of modification may suggest that the practice was conducted by family members at the household level. We conducted analyses using 3D geometric morphometric methods to compare vault shapes within and between prehistoric populations from the central Peruvian highlands (n=15) and the coast of northern Chile (n=38). The results show distinct spatio-temporal trends in the standardization of this cultural practice and demonstrate that 3D quantitative approaches can discern modification types that are difficult to differentiate using gross visual assessments.

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The standardization of prehistoric cranial vault modification practices in the Andes: a 3D geometric morphometric approach. Susan Kuzminsky, Tiffiny Tung, Mark Hubbe, Antonio Villasenor-Marchal. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404521)


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