Sacrifice Reconsidered: Interpreting Stress from Archaeological Hair at Huaca de los Sacrificios


The Inka Empire (AD 1450-1532) practiced flexible forms of statecraft that affected their periphery populations across the cordillera. Lived experiences of different Inka subjects differed in varied ways, which therefore requires nuanced bioarchaeological approaches. This study aims to interpret psychosocial stress through assays of cortisol in archaeological hair from sacrificed individuals (n=19) recovered in the Huaca de los Sacrificios at the Chotuna-Chornancap Archaeological complex. This site is located in the Lambayeque region on the north coast of Peru and was used as a ritual and ceremonial complex by both the Inka and earlier Chimú states; the remains analyzed here are associated with the Inka period. Utilizing enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to obtain both overall and segmented cortisol levels, this study examines spikes in cortisol and analyzes these data along with existing data from this study sample. These archaeological cortisol levels are also compared to published cortisol data from living participants, in order to better reconstruct and infer overall stress levels in this cohort. Preliminary results suggest elevated cortisol levels in a number of sacrificed individuals may indicate high levels of psychosocial stress. This analysis also considers other potential confounders as this cohort includes young adult females and subadults.

Cite this Record

Sacrifice Reconsidered: Interpreting Stress from Archaeological Hair at Huaca de los Sacrificios. Benjamin Schaefer, Bethany L. Turner, Haagen D. Klaus. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430324)

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Cortisol Inka sacrifice

Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17309