Decapitated Man Found in Peru Tomb With Ceramic "Replacement" Head
A headless skeleton found in a Peruvian tomb is adding new wrinkles to the debate over human sacrifice in the ancient Andes.
The decapitated body was found in the Nasca region, named for the ancient civilization that thrived in southern Peru from A.D. 1 to 750.
Known for producing "Nasca lines" in the earth that depict giant figures, the culture is also noted among archaeologists for practicing human sacrifice and displaying modified human heads called trophy heads.
But experts have been divided over whether the heads were taken from enemies in war or from locals offered up for ritual sacrifice.
In 2004 Christina Conlee, an archaeologist at Texas State University, found a rare headless skeleton in a tomb sitting cross-legged with a ceramic "head jar" placed to the left of the body (see enlarged photo).
The age and condition of both the body and the jar, which is painted with two inverted human faces, suggests that the victim was killed in a rite of ancestral worship, Conlee said.
"This research is important because it provides new information on human sacrifice in the ancient Andes and in particular on decapitation and trophy heads," she said.
June 12, 2007:
Ancient Tomb Found in Mexico Reveals Mass Child Sacrifice
The skeletons of two dozen children killed in an ancient mass sacrifice have been found in a tomb at a construction site in Mexico.
The find reveals new details about the ancient Toltec civilization and adds to an ongoing debate over ritualistic killing in historic Mesoamerica.
Construction crews unearthed the burial chamber this spring near the town of Tula, the ancient Toltec capital, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Mexico City (see Mexico map).
The chamber contained 24 skeletons of children believed to have been sacrificed between A.D. 950 and 1150, according to Luis Gamboa, an archaeologist at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.