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Childhood Lost: Abductions, Sacrifice, and Trophy Heads of Children in the Wari Empire of the Ancient Andes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Tiffiny A. Tung
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, vu Station B #356050, Nashville, TN 37235 (t.tung@vanderbilt.edu)
Kelly J. Knudson
Affiliation:
Center for Bioarchaeological Research, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State UniversityPO Box 872402, Tempe, AZ, 85287 (kelly.knudson@asu.edu)

Abstract

This study examines isolated child skeletal remains from ritual structures at the Wari site of Conchopata (A.D. 600–1000) to evaluate how they were modified into trophy heads and whether the children were sacrificed. The skeletal remains represent at least seven children. Strontium isotope ratios are examined to determine whether children were taken from foreign locales. Results show that the children’s skulls exhibit a hole on the apex of the cranium and on the ascending ramus of the mandible, identical to the adult Wari trophy heads. At least one child may have been sacrificed. 87Sr/86Sr demonstrate that two of the four sampled child trophy heads were nonlocal, suggesting that children were occasionally abducted from distant communities, perhaps for sacrifice and certainly to transform some into trophy heads. The similar child and adult trophy heads suggest that the ritual treatment of children was not uniquely designed, at least as it related to their processing, display, and destruction. Furthermore, it is suggested that the child trophy heads were not simply passive symbols of pre-existing authority by the head-takers and trophy head-makers. The trophy heads simultaneously imbued those agents with authority—they did not merely reflect it—demonstrating the “effective agency” of the trophy head objects themselves. Finally, we suggest that prisoner-taking and trophy head-making by military and ritual elites served to legitimate the authority of those individuals while simultaneously serving larger state goals that enhanced Wari state authority and legitimated its policies and practices.

Este estudio examina óseos humanos incorpóreos de varios niños provenientes de estructuras rituales en un sitio de afiliación Wari (d.C. 600–1000)—Conchopata—para evaluar si fueron modificados como cabezas trofeos y si fueron sacrificados. Los restos óseos representan por lo menos siete niños. Además, se analizan las proporciones de isotopos de estroncio para aclarar si estuvieron raptados desde regiones afuera del centro del imperio Wari. Observaciones de perforaciones en los ápices de los cráneos de los niños indican que fueron cabezas trofeos. 87Sr/86Sr demuestra que dos cabezas trofeos de niños eran extranjeros. Esto sugiere que los guerreros de Wari capturaron niños, como hicieron a los adultos prisioneros. Las similitudes entre las cabezas trofeos de niños y adultos, indican que el tratamiento ritual de los niños no fue único o especial en su diseño, a menos que se relaciona su procesamiento, exposición, y destrucción dentro de las estructuras rituales. Además, se sugiere que las cabezas trofeos de los niños no fueron símbolos pasivos de una autoridad pre-existente de sus captores y fabricadores. Las cabezas trofeos simultáneamente imbuyeron esos agentes con autoridad—no la reflejaron simplemente. En este sentido, las cabezas trofeos tuvieron una “agencia efectiva” dentro de sus contextos de obtención, fabricación, y utilización. Finalmente, sugerimos que la captura y fabricación de cabezas trofeos por la elite militar y ritual legitimizaron su autoridad, a la vez sirviendo metas más amplias del estado que aumentaron su autoridad y legitimizaron sus principios y prácticas.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2010 by the Society for American Archaeology.

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