Corporeal Icons of Wari Imperialism

Tiffiny A. Tung

in Violence, Ritual, and the Wari Empire

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780813037677
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813042183 | DOI:
Corporeal Icons of Wari Imperialism

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  • Prehistoric Archaeology


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This chapter describes the 21 human trophy heads recovered from Conchopata, examining how they more fully explicate the role of militarism and violence in the Wari Empire, and comparing strontium isotope ratios from the heads to those from the Conchopata burials to determine whether they derive from local or non-local individuals. The strontium isotope data show that a vast majority of the trophy heads are non-local, suggesting that they represent enemy communities from distant lands. The author describes Wari iconography that depicts Wari warriors carrying trophy heads and prisoners. Based on the morphological, isotopic, and iconographic evidence, she argues that Wari military agents traveled to non-local regions to obtain prisoners for sacrifice and transformation into trophy heads. These practices were likely part of the Wari strategy for expansion and control, and also provided men with a means to gain social power while also creating a particular kind of masculine identity. Trophy heads from Beringa and La Real are also described.

Keywords: trophy heads; sacrifice; ritual specialists; dismemberment; decapitation; masculinity

Chapter.  15151 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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