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Walled Settlements, Buffer Zones, and Human Decapitation in the Acari Valley, Peru

Lidio M. Valdez
Journal of Anthropological Research
Vol. 65, No. 3 (Fall, 2009), pp. 389-416
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25608224
Page Count: 28
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Walled Settlements, Buffer Zones, and Human Decapitation in the Acari Valley, Peru
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Abstract

Severed human heads constitute one of the hallmarks of the Early Intermediate period of the Peruvian South Coast region. The ancient art of this region (including pottery and textiles) frequently portrays severed heads that are often associated with mythical beings. Actual heads, identified as trophies, have also been found in all the valleys of the region, suggesting that human decapitation and trophy head taking were important aspects of Early Intermediate period society on the South Coast. Notwithstanding the occurrence of trophies, decapitated human bodies are seldom found in the archaeological record. Recent archaeological excavations carried out at Amato, an Early Intermediate period site in the Acari Valley, resulted in the unprecedented finding of dozens of decapitated bodies buried inside a centrally located structure. In addition to the heads, several cervical bones are also absent, and the uppermost cervical vertebrae that remain often exhibit unmistakable cut marks. Victims of decapitation represent all ages and both sexes, some of whom had their wrists and ankles tied. Many of the victims exhibit parry fractures, which indicate a violent, face-to-face confrontation. The presence in Acari of several sites with constructed defensive systems (and with buffer zones between them), in conjunction with the evidence of decapitation, strongly indicate that outright violence occurred in Acari and that human decapitation likely was a direct outcome of that conflict.

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