Marking Ethnicity Through Premortem Cranial Modification Among the Pre-Inca Chiribaya, Peru

María Cecilia Lozada

in The Bioarchaeology of the Human Head

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780813035567
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041766 | DOI:
Marking Ethnicity Through Premortem Cranial Modification Among the Pre-Inca Chiribaya, Peru

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This chapter reconstructs identity and assesses group differentiation among the pre-Inca Chiribaya of southern Peru (ad 700–1359) based on an analysis of cranial modification complemented by other forms of research. The Chiribaya culture was made up of distinct communities of specialists such as fishermen (pescadores) and agriculturalists (labradores). Differences between these two economic groups cut across nearly every category of production, from ceramic and spoon styles to mortuary patterning, and suggest a fundamental cultural divide within Chiribaya society. As such, this chapter focuses on the use of head form as a visual cue to ethnicity, differentiating one group of “insiders” from another, as well as differentiating “insiders” collectively from “outsiders.” It also explores the sociopolitical environment that may have promoted the use of symbols of group membership such as cranial modification. This chapter concludes that cranial modification was used to reflect ethnic differences that were defined primarily by economic activity, and that selection of a specific head shape may have been inspired by the surrounding mountains, or divine apus, from whom they believed they descended.

Keywords: identity; pre-Inca Chiribaya; Peru; cranial modification; insiders; mortuary patterning

Chapter.  4086 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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