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

Surfacing from the Wake of Conquest: regional diversity in biocultural responses to European colonization in Northern Peru


1Behavioral Science Dept., Utah Valley University; Museo Nacional Sican, Peru, 2Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

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The transition to the colonial world in the Americas was once envisioned as a process of native demographic collapse and population extinction. Bioarchaeological research instead continues to reveal a diverse range of outcomes to conquest. Following the first phase of our long-term investigation into the postcontact adaptive transition in Mórrope, the focus of the Lambayeque Valley Biohistory Project shifted to Eten, and included excavation of two church ruins over three field seasons (2009-2011) producing a sample of 475 Early/Middle and Middle/Late Colonial burials that reveals complex and contrasting native experiences within colonial Lambayeque. Initial analysis indicates the Muchik people of Eten were in some ways healthier than the people of Mórrope - they survived greater degrees of acute subadult stress (measured by linear enamel hypoplasias) and experienced less childhood anemia and chronic adult infection. Much of this may owe to the unique and diverse biotically-rich microenvironments of Eten. Oral health data suggests the Eten population consumed a diet low in carbohydrates and high in marine resources. Paradoxically, four mass graves in Eten point to high mortality events that were not observed in Mórrope. Eten also includes qualitatively more severe osteoarthritis, activity-related injuries (broken ribs and femoral neck fractures), and examples of deadly interpersonal violence experienced by children. This paper provides a first glimpse of a significant and previously unknown range of colonial experiences in the Lambayeque Valley faced by the first generation of the survivors of conquest and their descendants.

This research was generously supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant 1026169), the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Grants 7302, 8009, 7392), Utah Valley University's Grants For Engaged Learning (2009,2010), the Phased Grants Program (2011), Research Fellowship Program (2008-2011), Scholarly Creative Oportunities Program, (2009-11), College of Humanities and Social Science's Dean's Office (2008, 2010, 2011), and the Unidad Ejecutiva 005 Naymlap-Lambayeque, Peru (2009).

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