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

The interpretation of shifting mortuary patterns after contact and colonialism


1Anthropology, Syracuse University, 2Anthropology, University of Wyoming, 3Anthropology and Sociology, Metropolitan State College of Denver

Saturday 11:15-11:30, Galleria North Add to calendar

Christian mortuary rites and practices were considered an important component of the successful evangelization of native Andeans; however, historical documents account long-term campaigns to eradicate native mortuary practices and the persistence of the traditional indigenous beliefs and mortuary practices long after the first efforts of Christianization. In a previous paper (Murphy and Boza 2010), we proposed different indigenous strategies and responses to Spanish conquest and how these patterns might manifest themselves in the bioarchaeological record. We suggested that males and females may have been differentially affected by violence, disease, early evangelization efforts, and intermarriage. Here we integrate mortuary data with demographic information from Late Horizon (prehispanic) and early colonial burials from a cemetery that spans before and shortly after Spanish Conquest of the Inca Empire (N=119). These burials were analyzed and compared in order to test our expectations about mortuary practices and demographic statistics. We discuss the ratio of adults to subadults and the sex distribution and sex ratio within the cemetery samples and what they might mean in terms of the toll warfare and disease may have taken on the males, females, and subadults from the community. We also present the observed shifts in mortuary practices and caution that there are multiple interpretations of the mortuary evidence for the effects of evangelization and Spanish Conquest and that the presence of Christian burials does not necessarily mean successful evangelization.

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