The geographic origins of Nasca trophy heads using strontium, oxygen, and carbon isotope data

Kelly Knudson, Sloan R. Williams, Rebecca Osborn, Kathleen Forgey, Patrick Ryan Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scholars continue to debate the identity of individuals curated as trophy heads in the Nazca Drainage of southern Peru (c. 1-800 AD). What was the role of trophy heads in Nasca society? Were they victims of warfare or venerated ancestors? Strontium, oxygen, and carbon isotope data from archaeological human tooth enamel from Nasca trophy heads from Aja, Cahuachi, Cantayo, Majoro Chico and Paredones, and from individuals buried in Nasca cemeteries at Cahuachi, Cantayo, and Majoro Chico elucidate the geographic origins and paleodiet of trophy heads in the Nazca Drainage. The 87Sr/86Sr and δ18Oc(V-PDB) data from both the trophy heads and the Nazca Drainage burials are all quite variable, and do not support the hypothesis that the Nasca trophy heads were obtained from a geographically-distinct population. Similarly, the δ13Cc(V-PDB) data demonstrates that the individuals included in this study consumed similar diets. These data suggest that the Nasca trophy heads likely derive from the local Nasca population. Rather than obtain heads from enemy warriors through geographic expansion or warfare as seen in other parts of the world, this complex social practice existed within the Nasca polity throughout space and time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-257
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Volume28
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009

Keywords

  • Andes
  • Early Intermediate Period
  • Paleodiet
  • Peru
  • Residential mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology

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