Patterns of cranial trauma in the Late Intermediate Period Colca Valley, Peru (A.D. 1000-1450)

Author(s): Matthew Velasco

Year: 2016


Cranial trauma studies of Late Intermediate Period populations (LIP, A.D. 1000-1450) suggest that conflict and social stress were endemic across the south-central Andes, although the nature of interpersonal violence was strongly mediated by local political and social structures. This study explores how individuals buried in elaborate cliffside tombs from the Colca valley of southern Peru experienced violence across the 400-year period preceding Inka imperialism. Cranial trauma rates show high levels of violence within this community, affecting over half of all adults, although less than 5% of injuries were lethal. The prevalence of antemortem trauma also decreases significantly from 71% (N=66) during the early LIP (pre-1300 A.D.) to around 50% (N=80) during the late LIP (post-1300 A.D.). This downward shift coincides with the expansion of cranial modification practices across society, suggesting that the construction and embodiment of a cohesive ethnic identity mitigated the effects of inter-group conflict. Compared to individuals exhibiting modification (N=57) during the late LIP, unmodified individuals (N=22) exhibit trauma rates nearly 1.5 times higher (46% vs. 68%, p=0.08). This paper will also explore the patterning and severity of traumatic lesions to elucidate the role of warfare in ethnogenetic processes of integration and differentiation in the Colca valley.

Cite this Record

Patterns of cranial trauma in the Late Intermediate Period Colca Valley, Peru (A.D. 1000-1450). Matthew Velasco. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 405253)

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Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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