Sociocultural concepts associated with sickness can profoundly influence social processes and individual experiences of disease. Here, we consider the role of sociocultural beliefs concerning sickness in the construction of individuals' social identities in the pre-Columbian Andes. Paleopathological analyses reveal evidence of mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, a facially disfiguring infectious disease endemic to tropical lowland rainforests, in the skeletal remains of six females buried at Coyo Oriental and Tchecar Túmulo Sur, two Middle Horizon (AD 500-1000) cemeteries in the highland desert of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. We use pre-Columbian Andean sickness ideology reconstructed from ethnography and ethnohistory as an interpretative framework for data from these individuals' mortuary contexts and isotopic analyses used to infer residential mobility. Our study demonstrates that consideration of sickness ideology in conjunction with multiple lines of bioarchaeological and archaeological evidence increases understanding of the social experience of disease at San Pedro during the Middle Horizon.
- Mortuary archaeology
- Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis
- Radiogenic strontium isotopes
- Social identity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine