The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

The First Decorative Dental Inlay Identified in a Pre-Hispanic Peruvian


1Anthropology, Wagner College, 2Anthropology, University of Toronto, 3Anthropology, Georgia State University, 4Anthropology, Eckerd College

April 17, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

This work documents the first unambiguous case of a pre-Hispanic Peruvian with dental inlays—an adult bearing two labially drilled maxillary canines, one of which retains a metallic inlay in situ. The individual’s remains were recovered from a disturbed context in Huaca de la Luna, one of two monumental structures that anchor the north coast site of Huacas de Moche. This densely occupied site served as a primary ritual center of the Southern Moche State circa AD 400-800.

To characterize aspects of the individual’s life history and the remaining inlay, we report the results of biochemical and pXRF analyses. Dentin was analyzed for collagen δ13C and δ15N characterization and AMS dates, and enamel for carbonate δ13C, δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr, and 206,7,8Pb/204Pb characterization. Light isotopic data were compared to published data and 38 individuals recovered from the nearby site Cerro Oreja, the occupation of which predates that of the Huacas de Moche. The heavy isotopic data were compared to 14 individuals. Results indicate the affected individual lived during the Moche period, and consumed a 13C-enriched diet including maize, meat from C4 consumers such as camelids, and/or low-trophic-level marine foods. 87Sr/86Sr and 206,7,8Pb/204Pb values closely resemble those from Cerro Oreja, but δ18O values are much higher, suggesting chicha consumption. pXRF results indicate that the inlay is composed of electrum but could also be silver or a silver-heavy alloy overlying a gold/tumbaga substrate. Together the data suggest that affected individual was likely a local resident whose social identity was connected to chicha consumption.

This research was funded by Wagner College’s Anonymous Donor, Faculty Research, and Department of Anthropology grants.

Slides/Poster (pdf)