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Ritual violence or simply ritual? Evaluating the evidence for child sacrifice in Late Formative Period Peru

Author(s): Emily Sharp ; Rebecca Bria

Year: 2017

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Highland mortuary practices during the Andean Late Formative Period (900–500 BC) in Ancash, Peru are poorly understood, in part because burials from this period are rarely encountered. Excavations conducted in 2009 at the archaeological site of Hualcayán uncovered a primary interment of a juvenile aged 5-6 years at time of death, dated in the range 806–540 calBC. The individual was buried with a necklace strung with bone and shell beads and bone spoons. Bioarchaeological analyses indicate the juvenile sustained possible perimortem trauma to the basicranium and the second cervical vertebra. A differential diagnosis of perimortem and postmortem trauma will be completed to evaluate this individual’s status as a possible ritual sacrifice. Determining the etiology of these fractures, whether resulting from a violent act or more accidental behavior, is complex and requires knowledge of the burial context. Drawing on insights from forensic analyses of trauma and archaeothanatology, this paper will assess how taphonomic processes impact interpretations of skeletal fractures and the burial environment. It will subsequently explore how these issues affect the juvenile unearthed at Hualcayán. This relatively complete burial provides important insights into the treatment of children and their role in ritual activities during the Formative period in the north-central Andes.

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Ritual violence or simply ritual? Evaluating the evidence for child sacrifice in Late Formative Period Peru. Emily Sharp, Rebecca Bria. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429406)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17462

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