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Modified Human Skulls from the Urban Sector of the Pyramids of Moche, Northern Peru

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

John W. Verano
Affiliation:
Departement of Anthropology, Tulane University, 1021 Audubon Street, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA
Santiago Uceda
Affiliation:
Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Ciudad Universitaria, Avenida Juan Pablo II s/n, Trujillo, Perú
Claude Chapdelaine
Affiliation:
Département d'anthropologie, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre- ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3J7, Canada
Ricardo Tello
Affiliation:
Proyecto Arqueológico Huaca de la Luna, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Jr. Junin 682, Trujillo, Perú
María Isabel Paredes
Affiliation:
Proyecto Arqueológico Huaca de la Luna, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Jr. Junin 682, Trujillo, Perú
Victor Pimentel
Affiliation:
Proyecto Arqueológico Huaca de la Luna, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Jr. Junin 682, Trujillo, Perú

Abstract

Recent excavations in the urban sector of the Pyramids at Moche in northern coastal Peru exposed two modified human skulls that were placed in an adobe niche within a domestic structure 100 m west of the Pyramid of the Moon ca. A. D. 400-650. A portion of the cranial vault is cut away from the top of each skull, and one shows drilled holes for attachment of the mandible. The skulls show a close resemblance to certain Moche ceramic skull jars that have a similar opening at the top of the vessel. Osteological analysis indicates that both skulls are of young adult males. Cut marks on the external surfaces of the cranial vault, face, and mandible indicate that they were prepared from fleshed heads and not from dry skulls. The finds at Moche are the first documented examples of this form of cranial modification, although an early Spanish account describes a similar trophy vessel that belonged to the Inka Atahualpa. Comparison of the Moche modified skulls with Nasca trophy heads reveals that the two were prepared and used differently.

Resumen

Resumen

En excavaciones recientes en el sector urbano del sitio de las Pirámides de Moche en la costa norte del Perú se descubrieron dos cráneos humanos modificados que habían sido colocados en un nicho de adobe, dentro de una estructura doméstica a 100 m al oeste de la Pirámide de la Luna ca. 400-650 d. C. En cada caso, una porción de la bóveda craneana fue removida, y una de ellas muestra perforaciones hechas para articular la mandíbula. Ambos presentan una gran semejanza con cerámica Moche en forma de cráneo, que tienen aberturas similares en su parte superior. El análisis osteológico indica que estos cráneos pertenecieron a varones adultos jóvenes. Ambos presentan marcas de corte en las superficies externas de la bóveda craneal, la cara y mandíbula realizadas durante el proceso de descarnamiento, lo cual indica que fueron preparados a partir de cabezas, y no a partir de cráneos ya secos. Estos hallazgos en Moche son los primeros ejemplos documentados de este tipo de modificación craneal, aunque un reporte español temprano menciona una vasija trofeo semejante que perteneció al Inca Atahualpa. La comparación de estos cráneos modificados Moche con las cabezas-trofeo Nasca revela diferencias significativas tanto en el método de preparación, como en su posible función.

Type
Reports
Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 1999

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