Statistically Comparing Demographic Distributions of Mortuary Assemblages

Author(s): C. L. Kieffer; Jack Baker

Year: 2017


This analysis includes data from 50 archaeological mortuary assemblages variously attributed to sacrifice, warfare, and standard mortality processes. The research compares two sites, both attributed to sacrifice, to those produced by the two alternative processes of warfare and standard mortality and explores the question of whether these assemblages may be differentiated from them based on the age distribution of deaths. The analysis incorporates a novel feature in that preservation bias is directly modeled using monte carlo experiments. The results suggest that the two sacrifice assemblages (Midnight Terror Cave, Belize and Chichen Itza, Mexico) do not differ significantly from a small-scale horticularalist reference model of mortality proposed by Gurven and Kaplan (2007), but do differ significantly from other sites in the sample in the proportion of the assemblage comprised of six to 10 year olds at the site of Midnight Terror Cave. This finding is in line with ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts that indicate children were often selected for sacrifice to the Maya rain gods in caves and cenotes.

Cite this Record

Statistically Comparing Demographic Distributions of Mortuary Assemblages. C. L. Kieffer, Jack Baker. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430416)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16118