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Displays of Violence and Power at the Edge of the Empire: Provincial Trophy Heads during Inca Times

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2019

Francisco Garrido*
Affiliation:
Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Parque Quinta Normal s/n, Santiago, Chile
Catalina Morales
Affiliation:
Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Parque Quinta Normal s/n, Santiago, Chile
*
(francisco.garrido@mnhn.gob.cl, corresponding author)

Abstract

The Inca expansion to the southern Andes catalyzed important political and symbolic changes in local communities. In addition to economic changes in mining production and the installation of logistical and administrative infrastructure, new forms of ideological violence emerged in the Copiapó Valley, Chile. One new form was the display and discarding of human heads, a burial pattern unprecedented in the region. In this article, we present evidence of perforated heads buried without grave goods next to a local cemetery in a Late Horizon village. We argue that the performative use of modified severed heads from young individuals at the Iglesia Colorada site was part of Inca ritual practices. Their use represented an effort to ideologically rule over newly incorporated subjects by demonstrating power and ensuring their compliance.

La expansión Inca en el sur de los Andes catalizó importantes cambios políticos y simbólicos en las comunidades locales. Además de los cambios económicos en la producción minera y la instalación de infraestructura logística y administrativa, surgieron nuevas formas de violencia ideológica en el valle de Copiapó (Chile). Éstas incluyeron la exhibición y descarte de cabezas humanas cercenadas, siendo un patrón funerario sin precedentes en la región. En este artículo presentamos evidencia de cráneos con perforaciones, los cuales fueron enterrados sin ofrendas mortuorias, en asociación a un cementerio de una aldea local del horizonte Tardío. Argumentamos que la utilización y exhibición de cabezas cercenadas de individuos jóvenes en el sitio Iglesia Colorada, fue parte de prácticas rituales. Éstas representarían un esfuerzo de dominio ideológico sobre poblaciones recientemente incorporadas al imperio, con el fin de demostrar poder y asegurar obediencia.

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Article
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Copyright © 2019 by the Society for American Archaeology 

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