Human Sacrifice On The North Coast Of Peru: Recent Discoveries Pose New Questions

Time: 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Contact: Connie Rodriguez, PhD · · 865-2287

Location: Whitney Bank Presentation Room

A Lecture by
Dr. John Verano
Department of Anthropology
Tulane University

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Whitney Bank Presentation Room
Thomas Hall
8 pm
free admission and free parking on campus

Co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Department of Classical Studies and the New Orleans Society of the Archaeological Institute of America

A number of discoveries of human sacrifices have been made in northern coastal Peru over the past decade.  Nearly every new case calls into question previous models that have attempted to characterize and interpret ritual killing in Pre-Columbian Peru.  With this growing sample we are seeing increasing variability in the demographic profile of victims, the ways in which they were sacrificed, and the location and manner in which their bodies were buried.  Dividing lines between traditional categories such as executed captives, retainer and dedicatory burials, and ritual offerings are becoming blurred as new discoveries are made.  Careful contextual and bioarchaeological examination of these assemblages is required if we are to make some sense of this growing corpus of data. 

This presentation will draw on data collected during more than twenty five years of excavation and analysis of sacrificial sites on the north coast of Peru.  While some contexts include only small numbers of victims, others involve more than a hundred individuals.  One such sacrificial site at which excavation was recently conducted is the largest child and camelid sacrifice known from the New World.  Made by the Chimú State about six hundred years ago, it provides a unique window into a previously unknown form of mass offering,.  The ways in which it is similar to other north coast sacrifices and the ways in which it is unique will be explored, with a focus on new analytical methods in stable isotope geochemistry and ancient DNA analysis that may provide insight into the identities and origins of the sacrificial victims.