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

You don’t have a leg to stand on: a case study of femo-tibial fusion from a cave in the Andahuaylas Province, Peru


1Department of Transportation, State of California, 2Anthropology, Vanderbilt University

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Medico-cultural interventions, such as amputation, show up frequently in skeletal samples from the Andes. This paper describes findings based on a palimpsest of pre, peri, and postmortem interventions performed on one individual; we hypothesize the circumstances which mediated these procedures. These remains, found in a commingled burial cave in Andahuaylas, Peru, pertain to an individual from the Chanka culture (ca. AD 1000-1400).

Based on metric and nonmetric data (diaphysis circumference, medial-lateral diameter, and transverse diameter), the fused element is a right leg from an adult male. Likely the result of traumatic etiology during adulthood, the distal femur and proximal tibia were immobilized after injury and eventually fused at the knee with a cancellous bone bridge at a ~130⁰ angle. Twelve perimortem cut marks at the proximal end of the femur and 14 cut marks on the distal end of the tibia indicate thigh amputation, and foot amputation, respectively. “Chatter” cut marks on bone indicate possible postmortem defleshing, while bone polishing on amputated ends and on the cancellous bridge suggest pot-cooking. Results suggest that the Chanka had social and technical measures in place to provide therapeutic interventions for individuals with limited mobility, as well as customs for dealing with disarticulated appendages.

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

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