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Why dig looted tombs? Two examples and some answers from Keushu (Ancash highlands, Peru)

By Karina Gerdau-Radonic and Alexander Herrera


Looted tombs at Andean archaeological sites are largely the result of a long tradition of trade in archaeological artefacts coupled with the 17th century policy of eradicating ancestor veneration and destroying mortuary evidence in a bid to “extirpate idolatry”. On the surface, looted funerary contexts often present abundant disarticulated and displaced human remains as well as an apparent absence of mortuary accoutrements. What kind of information can archaeologists and biological anthropologists hope to gather from such contexts? In order to gauge the methodological possibilities and interpretative limitations of targeting looted tombs, we fully excavated two collective funerary contexts at the archaeological site of Keushu (district and province of Yungay, Ancash, Peru; c. 2000 B.C.-A.D. 1600), which includes several dozen tombs, many built under large boulders or rock shelters, all of which appear disturbed by looting. The first is located in the ceremonial sector and excavation yielded information on four individuals; the second, in the funerary and residential sector, held the remains of seventy individuals - adults and juveniles. Here, we present and discuss the recovered data and suggest that careful, joint excavations by archaeologists and biological anthropologists can retrieve evidence of past mortuary practices, aid the biological characterisation of mortuary populations and help distinguish between a broad range of looting practices and post-depositional processes

Topics: aeo
Year: 2010
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