The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Conflict and ethnic identity among the post-collapse Chanka of Andahauylas, Peru (ca. AD 1000-1400)


Anthropology, Vanderbilt University

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State collapse is a timultuous event which can spur striking and novel reformulations of group identity, but can also dramatically alter how people physically interact with one another. Sometimes, in the wake of fragmentation, this interaction can become violent. Yet violence may not be experienced equally by everyone; indeed some groups may be more vulnerable than others. This study specifically examines how the collapse of an ancient empire in the Peruvian Andes may have provoked periods of ethnocide within an emergent post-collapse society, known as the Chanka (ca. AD 1000-1400).

From 2009-2011, 315 crania from imperial and post-collapse eras were excavated from burial caves in Andahuaylas and assessed for evidence of violence, as well as salient skeletal indicators of ethnic identity. Physical conflict was inferred through patterns of healed and unhealed skull fractures; different ethnic groups were identified by the absence, presence, and style of cranial modification.

Results demonstrate a significant increase in non-accidental skull fractures between the Imperial (Wari) and Post-collapse (Chanka) periods, which suggest that violence in Andahuaylas became much more frequent following collapse. Moreover, deadly (unhealed) injuries are almost exclusively present on skulls that exhibit cranial modification. This suggests that the recognition of ethnic identity, marked as such by a modified skull, may have been a primary cause for deadly attacks within post -collapse Chanka society.

This research was supported by Fulbright-Hays and Vanderbilt University.

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