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Where condors reign: Methodological challenges in the bioarchaeology of Chachapoya cliff tombs in Peru

Author(s): Jennifer Marla Toyne

Year: 2017

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Traditional archaeological practice involves horizontal mapping and excavations of ancient settlements and cemeteries, but bioarchaeological research of mortuary practices in the Chachapoyas region of northeastern Peru is stymied by the challenging vertical slopes, almost constant rain, and the placement of burial structures on seemingly impossible to reach ledges on exposed rock escarpments. Exploring and registering archaeological vestiges of these cliff cemeteries requires the combination of "vertical archaeology" -- using rappelling and rope technology to reach tombs as directly as possible to engage in traditional methods of recording using meticulous photography and drawings -- and 3-D photogrammetry as well as long distance and aerial drone photography. This paper discusses the methods used at the site of La Petaca and Diablo Wasi and the major challenges faced including natural and technological impediments. We attempt to identify and reconstruct how and why the ancient Chachapoya people created and placed their dead using both up close and personal observations as well as remote recording techniques. Many archaeological details cannot be seen from a distance and yet many locations could not be physically reached safely. We continue to explore how to combine these datasets in meaningful and accessible ways for both local and scientific communities.

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Where condors reign: Methodological challenges in the bioarchaeology of Chachapoya cliff tombs in Peru. Jennifer Marla Toyne. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431198)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15492

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