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Unique Infant Mortuary Ritual at Salango, Ecuador, 100 BC

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 November 2019

Sara L. Juengst*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina–Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC28283, USA
Richard Lunniss
Affiliation:
Universidad Técnica de Manabí, Avenida José María Urbina, Portoviejo, Ecuador
Abigail Bythell
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina–Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC28283, USA
Juan José Ortiz Aguilu
Affiliation:
Universidad Técnica de Manabí, Avenida José María Urbina, Portoviejo, Ecuador
*
(sjuengst@uncc.edu, corresponding author)

Abstract

The human head was a potent symbol for many South American cultures. Isolated heads were often included in mortuary contexts, representing captured enemies, revered persons, and symbolic “seeds.” At Salango, a ritual complex on the central coast of Ecuador, excavations revealed two burial mounds dated to approximately 100 BC. Among the 11 identified burials, two infants were interred with “helmets” made from the cranial vaults of other juveniles. The additional crania were placed around the heads of the primary burials, likely at the time of burial. All crania exhibited lesions associated with bodily stress. In this report, we present the only known evidence of using juvenile crania as mortuary headgear, either in South America or globally.

La cabeza humana fue un símbolo importante para muchas de las antiguas culturas sudamericanas. A menudo, las cabezas aisladas se incluían en contextos funerarios, representando enemigos, personas importantes y “semillas” simbólicas. Las excavaciones realizadas en Salango, un sitio ritual ubicado en la costa central de Ecuador, durante 2014–2016, revelaron dos montículos funerarios en el perímetro norte del santuario, con una cronología de 100 aC. Entre los 11 entierros recuperados, dos infantes tenían cráneos adicionales, depositados alrededor de sus respectivas cabezas, probablemente durante el rito funerario. Todos los cráneos presentaron lesiones asociadas con malnutrición y enfermedades infecciosas. En este informe presentamos los únicos ejemplos de este rito funerario en el mundo. Sugerimos algunas explicaciones preliminares acerca de por qué la gente de Salango llevó a cabo esta práctica.

Type
Report
Copyright
Copyright © 2019 by the Society for American Archaeology

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