The Body Context: Interpreting Early Nasca Decapitated Burials

... grave offerings is observed. Painted ceramic images of Nasca trophy heads and headless bodies are reviewed diachron-ically and a marked increase in decapitation scenes is noted for Late Nasca. Attention is drawn to the ...
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  Society for American Archaeology The Body Context: Interpreting Early Nasca Decapitated BurialsAuthor(s): Lisa DeLeonardisSource: Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Dec., 2000), pp. 363-386Published by: Society for American ArchaeologyStable URL: Accessed: 30/03/2010 21:48 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Society for American Archaeology  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Latin American Antiquity.  One of the most enigmatic aspects of decapitation practices among south coastal Peruvian Paracas and Nasca cultures (900 B. C.-A.D. 750) is the near absence of headless bodies in the archaeological record. Drawing on a case study of an Early Nasca, Phase 3 headless burial at Site PV62D13 in the lower Ica Valley, ogether with examples of headless interments reported n the literature, I examine the nature and disposition of headless burials. Three burial patterns, or forms, are proposed. The burial at PV62D13 is distinguished or its extended posture and interment n a non-cemetery setting and is proposed to be a dedica- tory burial. Burialforms for disembodied heads are also examined, and over time, a notable increase in cached heads, buried without grave offerings is observed. Painted ceramic images of Nasca trophy heads and headless bodies are reviewed diachron- ically and a marked ncrease in decapitation scenes is notedfor Late Nasca. Attention s drawn to the limited number of head- less body images overall, and possible solutions to reconcile the visual imagery with the archaeological data are offered. Uno de los aspectos mas enigmaticos en las pra'cticas de decapitacion humana entre las culturas Paracas y Nasca (900 a. C.-750 d. C.) de la costa sur Peruana, es la casi ausencia de enterramientos e cuerpos sin cabezas. Mientras as cabezas se las encuen- tran decapitadas o como cabezas trofeo sus equivalentes conograficos por todas partes, la escasez de cuerpos sin cabezas, y en efecto, la casi ausencia de imagenes visuales respectivas durante Nasca temprano on notables. Aqu examino a fndole y me'todo de enterrar os cue rpos decapitados haciendo uso de un caso de enterramiento Nasca temprano, Fase 3 de un cue rpo sin cabeza excavado a Sitio PV62D13 en el valle bajo de Ica, junto con ejemplos de otros enterramientos in cabezas que se encuentran n la literatura. Se proponen tres patrones o formas de enterramientos. El entierro en el Sitio PV62D13, sugiere ser un enterramiento tipo of renda, que se distingue por su postura extendida y su ubicacion que no corresponde a aquellos de un cemeterio. Dos fechas radiocarbonicas ubican el enterramiento n un rango de restos culturales de Nasca 3. Aquf se discuten as discrepancias entre estas dos fechas. Tambie'n, e establecen y comparan as formas de enterramientos e cabezas trofeo a trave's el tiempo, encontra'ndose que existe un incremento notable en entierros de cabezas agrupadas sin ofrendas. Se examinan diacronicamente a ceramica dec- orada con cabezas trofeo y con cuerpos decapitados, notandose un aumento en la presencia de escenas de decapitacion en Nasca tardfo. Llama a atencion el numero restringido de imagenes que muestran cuerpos decapitados y propongo posibles soluciones a fin de conciliar las ima'genes isuales con los datos arqueologicos. Finalmente, e concluye que el analisis de enterramientos in cabezas es un me'todo a ioso pa ra a c a ra r e estudio de los sacrificios h umanos y espeefficamente, a p ractica de decap tacion. Lisa DeLeonardis * Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Catholic University, Washington, D.C. 20064 Latin American Antiquity, 11(4), 2000, pp 363-386 Copyright C) 2000 by the Society for American Archaeology Mortuary treatment esigned o preserve he dead is recognized in the Precolumbian Andes as early as 7000 B.C. The northern Chilean Chinchorro culture (700s1500 B.C.) is credited with incipient artificial mummification n thetrue enseofembalming Arriaza 996:131-134; Rivera 1995:61-63). In later times, the Inka (A.D. 1476-1534) are known o have mummified he bod- ies of rulers and to have displayed them as living ancestors during eremonial vents (Rowe 1995:29; Salomon 1995:332). Cultural modification of the human body n the form of cranial deformation, ody tattoos, and artificial mummification s strongly up- ported by the archaeological evidence and visual imagery of Precolumbian Peru. Among these prac- tices, mummification f human heads s most com- mon among south coastal peoples known as Paracas and Nasca (900 B.C.-A.D. 750). In numerous archaeological contexts associated with the Nasca culture (A.D. lOWA.D. 750), caches of bodiless heads attest to the proliferous nature of this phe- nomenon Baraybar 987; Browne et al.1993; Neira and Penteado 1972-1973; Penteado 1972; Tello 1918; Verano 1995). While interpretations may dif- fer as to the nature f removal victim or willing par- ticipant), r the agent of decapitation ritual pecialist or enemy warrior), the preponderance of heads clearly suggests a cultural mphasis on their mpor- 363 1 HE BODY CONTEXT: INTERPRETING EARLY NASCA DECAPITATED URIALS Lisa DeLeonardis  [Vol. 11, No. 4, 2000 64 LATIN AMERICAN ANTIQUITY tance. Verano (1995:219) aptly observes that it is among the Paracas and Nasca cultures that the iconography of disembodied heads is most closely paralleled by the physical evidence. One aspect of this intriguing practice hat s crit- ical to a wider view of Nasca mortuary itual and cus- toms are the headless bodies. While disembodied heads occupy a conspicuous place in the literature, headless bodies have received ar ess attention. The lack of discussion stems, in part, to a paucity of intact, headless burials n the archaeological ecord as compared o the number of heads that are found. The few headless bunals, when documented, are often considered anomalous rather han a cultural pattern or sub-pattern worthy of inquiry, yet there appear o be distinct orms among he headless cases. In the present study I re-examine Nasca decapi- tation practices by addressing body treatments accorded o headless bunals. I focus on a time period of Early Nasca history when head removal was com- mon and included a corresponding magery of dis- embodied heads, but lacked a repertoire of visual imagery or headless bodies. Drawing on a rare case of an intact, Early Nasca headless burial excavated from he ower IcaValley, s well as from other xam- ples of headless bodies in the literature, propose that meaningful burial patterns xisted for the head- less, and hat analysis of body treatment romises o lend integral support o our interpretations f dis- embodied heads and their associated magery. also raise the question as to whether he paucity of head- less body imagery over time is relative to a wider cultural de-emphasis on the headless body. Ulti- mately the study hopes to contribute o our under- standing of Nasca beliefs concerning he head and the body and heir relationship o concepts of life and death. I begin with an overview of Nasca mortuary rac- tices, which include nterment f whole and partial bodies. Focusing on examples of headless body nter- ments, I propose hat three forms of headless nter- ments are present n the archaeological ecord, and compare them to burials of disembodied heads. I then gn to the visual magery of disembodied eads and headless bodies o examine how the magery or- responds o the diachronic rends observed for the physical remains. In compiling data or this study, encountered he familiar problem of inconsistencies n the variables recorded for skeletal and ceramic data, including provenience. By choosing to address burial emains, I also encountered aps in the archaeological ecord that undoubtedly can be attributed o centuries of grave ooting in the Nasca region. In addition o my own data, bunal data presented here that were com- piled from other sources were carefully reviewed and sorted. Data with questionable provenience or lacking context were eliminated. Discrepancies n samples sizes for portions of the data are noted in the text. Cultural, Geographic, and Chronological Setting Nascal cultural emains are ound on the south coast of Peru n a region consisting of several river valleys extending north and south from the Rfo Grande de NascaDrainage Figure 1). Geographically, he south coast forms the northernmost eaches of the Ata- cama desert, he world's most arid environment fter the Sahara f Africa. Rivers are only seasonally ctive and he average annual ainfall s less than a few cen- timeters. Modern agriculturalists nd viticulturalists operate on an intensive scale for the world market with the use of irrigation-a system initiated by ancient armers over 2,000 years ago. Nasca is the term applied to both the archaeo- logical culture (A.D. 100 A.D. 750) and the nver drainage, Rio Grande de Nasca (Figures 1 and 2). Nasca peoples are best known or creating eoglyphs or Nasca ines hat cover 550 square kilometers of the desert pampa (Aveni 1990; Reiche 1974; Rein- del et al. l999; Reinhard 1988; Silverman 1990; Sil- verman and Browne 1991). The most prominent Nasca site, Cahuachi, s located in the Rfo Grande de Nasca Drainage, where a senes of temple mounds and cemeteries have been scientifically excavated (Kroeber nd Collier 1998; Orefici 1992; Silverman 1993; Strong 1957). Rather han an urban enter with a large, permanent esidential population, Cahuachi is thought to have functioned pnmarily as a cere- monial pilgrimage center (Silverman 1990, 1993). Various ertility ituals elebrating alendrical vents associated with agriculture uch as the summer ol- stice, new moons, and harvest are argued to have drawn housands rom the surrounding ettlements (Silverman 1990, 1991, 1993). Clearly, he agricul- tural motifs plants, eeds, harvesting ools) that dom- inate he iconography f finely painted, polychrome ceramics and textiles for this period,support an emphasis n agricultural ertility nd success n farm-  DeLeonardis] THE BODY CONTEXT: INTERPRETING EARLY NASCA DECAPITATED BURIALS 365 Intermediate eriod. The Nasca sequence s subdi- vided into nine phases, Nasca 1-9, but only six, Nasca 2-7, refer o Nasca-style material ulture and societal developments.2 Nasca phases 24 concern Early Nasca society and the proposed apogee of Cahuachi (Silverman 1993 :222). Middle phase Nasca 5 corresponds o the demise of Cahuachi, nd we associate Late phases Nasca S7 with a geo- graphic expansion on the south coast (Proulx 1994:95). The absolute chronology of Phases 24 of the Nasca stylistic sequence s poorly documented. In terms of material culture, Nasca succeeded Paracas n time. The two are often described as sep- arate entities but n fact a cultural ontinuum s rec- ognized. Both groups mummified disembodied heads; a greater number of physical remains are attributed o Nasca peoples, although on the south coast, he conography f disembodied eads was ini- tiated during Late Paracas times. The division between Late Paracas nd Early Nasca s a hazy boundary, efined by a change n pottery echnology when the post-fired painted and ncised Paracas pot- tery tradition was gradually eplaced by a pre-fired, painted radition Menzel et al. 1964:2). In terms of design themes, geometric elements were gradually replaced by an emphasis on naturalistic hemes such as plants and animals, and mythological creatures, and a greater number of human-like epresentations are developed (Blagg 1975). Nasca Mortuary lkeatment and Partial Burial Analysis Nasca mortuary reatment as been widely addressed in the literature ince the first omb excavations dur- ing the early decades of the twentieth century (Carmichael 1988, 1995; Isla 1992; Kroeber and Collier 1998; Lothrop and Mahler 1957; Orefici 1992; Proulx 1970; Silverman 1993; Strong 1957; Tello 1918; Uhle 1914). The most comprehensive synthesis of mortuary ontexts was undertaken y Carmichael 1988) and formed he basis of his doc- toral dissertation; e has since edited Kroeber's 926 field report (Kroeber and Collier 1998), bringing forth an indispensable ource of notes and illustra- tions. Nasca peoples entombed their dead princi- pally in cemeteries. Most bodies are found in a seated, lexed position, usually enshrouded n one or more textiles and accompanied by burial objects. Entombment n large ceramic urns placed in a pre- pared pit and covered with a roof of logs and thatch Figure 1. South coastal Peru showing geographic range of Nasca sites. ing (Carmichael 1994; Sawyer 1979; Townsend 1985). Schreiber's work n the area has documented expanses of ancient cultivation and a subterranean irrigation ystem of puquios (Schreiber 1990,1991, 1998; Schreiber and Isla 1997; Schreiber and Lan- cho 1995). While archaeological nvestigations oncerning the Nasca culture have been carried out primarily n the Rio Grande de Nasca Drainage, Nasca sites have been identified also throughout he IcaValley Cook 1994; Massey 1986; Pezzia 1968; Rowe 1956; Strong 1957; Uhle 1914; Williams and Pazos 1974) (Figures 1 and 3). Many of these mportant ites have yet to be fully investigated ut future work promises to contribute o a clearer understanding f the pres- ence of Nascain the IcaValley. Cook's (1999:71-72) recent analysis of settlement patterns or the middle and ower IcaValley ecognizes a Late Paracas/Early Nasca continuum t sites ranging rom Ocucaje outh to the mouth of the river. During the course of sur- face survey and excavations, observed Early Nasca cultural emains hroughout Callango, a region of the lower Ica Valley south of Ocucaje (DeLeonardis 1991, 1997). An Early Nasca burial encountered n excavations s discussed below. Within he chronological ramework stablished for the central Andes, Nasca occupied primarily he first half of the first millennium A.D., or the Early  Figure 2. The Rio Grande de Nasca Drainage showing sites mentioned in the text. LATIN AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 11, No. 4, 2000 66 COYUNGO 4 O 5 10 kms. - , modem settlemer archaeolooical sJte j is the most common burial form for Early Nasca (Carmichael 1995:166-167). Extended and side- flexed postures are less common (Carmichael 1988:18(}181), as are multiple interments group burials), with both occurring n later Nasca times. Secondary nterments, bodiless graves, and empty tombs are also known (Carmichael 1988). Animal burials parrot, mouse, lama) have been reported, ut are considered o be rare Carmichael 988:36(}361; Lothrop and Mahler 1957:4; Silverman 1993:199). Although modest in comparison o their south coast Paracas predecessors, very Nasca individual received meaningful nterment. Even during Mid- dle and Late Nasca times when status differentia- tion is evident n burial practices, every person was enshrouded n cloth, and with an offering, whether it be one or two ceramic vessels, a swatch of hair, or other keepsake. A small proportion f individu- als thought to be prisoners, criminals, suicides, or other social outcasts also received their due: they were cast into pits without offerings. Silverman (1993:215), following Bloch and Parry (1982: 15-18), refers to this type of interment as a bad death. Partial Burials Partial-body burials constitute an integral part of Nasca mortuary reatments. hey have been recorded from various Nasca cemeteries as otherwise articu- lated skeletons missing a limb or other body part, as whole or partial keletons hat have been disarticu- lated or rearticulated often bundles of bones from a single person), or as an intact portion of the body buried ingularly rin acache (see Carmichael 988; Kroeber and Collier 1998). A few partial burials are the result of looting or tomb re-entry, ut clear cases of intact, undisturbed nterments re more numerous (Tables 1-3). Two forms of partial-body urials of particular nterest o this study are disembodied eads and headless bodies. Disembodied Heads. Disembodied heads, more commonly known as trophy heads, are carefully mummified eads hat are proposed o have been sev- ered, at or around he time of death, from the body (Figure 4). These heads are not the random esult of looter's pillage, but rather he intentional work of skilled persons to create a life-like rendition. Dis- embodied heads are devoid of internal issue and
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