Thursday, April 07, 2011

AAPA Meeting 2011

The project is presenting a poster in the American Association of Physical Anthropology meeting 2011 , we are showing the results of season 2009.


Is located in the region of Ancash, a province of Huari, approximately 500 km North East of Lima, 3800 MASL and belongs to the Late Intermediate Period. This time in chronology of Peruvian archaeology correlates to 1200-1500 A.D.

This site is about 40 hectares in size, and it is situated at the top of the mountain with a very difficult access to it. Apparently the choice of such location had defensive reasons; there are walls on both extremities of the site - North and South.

The research of the last years shows us the existence of several sectors such as (1)Public- there is an amphitheatre where the population must have had meetings, (2) Residential – which is located in the southern part of the site and so far we have identified 57 ‘houses’, most of them of circular shape. Excavations in these ‘houses’ unveiled evidence of fire, domestic vessels, burned animal bone and some seeds.

However the (3) Funeral sector is the most impressive one. There are 35 chullpas or tombs, and about 23 funeral caves with human remains inside most, although all the remains, whether in chullpas or caves, have been disturbed.

Besides the chullpas and the funeral caves there one more kind of burial which we call an underground burial and it is this type of burial that we are presenting here (AAPA). Underground burials are not very common in the region of Ancash. Nor they are common during the Late Intermediate. Recuay (200-600 A.D.) culture used to bury their dead in a sort of underground tomb, but such tomb had walls which would give shape to the tomb. In Marcajirca’s case excavation shows us that people were simply digging out a hole without making walls and after laying the dead body in and then covering it with dirt.

People being buried underground in a site where chullpas and caves were always open call our attention. Neither chullpas nor caves dominating the site were ever fully sealed as such was the funerary custom of old huarinos and this custom was being practiced in a bigger part of Northern and Central Peru.

Why would people be buried underground having many tombs around? We think that during colonial time (c XVII) the Spanish church prohibited the natives to bury their dead in any archaeological sites following the old custom, and forced they bury the dead according to the tradition of Catholic Church. To old huarinos Marcajirca was a sacred place, a place where their ancestors were still “living” and in order to keep them “living” those alive had to later be buried with the ancestors. Apparently huarinos during colonial time did not obey the Church and kept secretly burying their dead in archaeological sites, and in order to hide the dead and not be punished by the Church they buried underground.

The remains of one individual buried underground date to 1610 A.D. which would mean that the Spanish were already in the area for at least 80 years