Nazcas trophy heads came from their own people

January 15th, 2009 - 5:26 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 15 (ANI): A new research has determined that the Nazca civilization, in ancient South America, had a large collection of human heads, which came from their own people.

According to a report in Discovery News, the findings of the research are based on a recent analysis of specimens unearthed at various Andean archaeological sites.

The Nazca civilization, which flourished in Peru between the first century B.C. and the fifth century A.D., is mostly known for carving in the desert hundreds of geometric lines and images of animals and birds that are best viewed from the air.

Less well known is that these ancient people boasted the largest collection of human heads in the Andes region of South America.

Carefully prepared, the lips sewed with long cactus spines, all heads featured a hole in the center of the forehead so that a carrying rope could be inserted.

Hanged and suspended from these woven cords, the heads were long believed to be war trophies.

But, recent analysis of the diet-related substances found in the teeth of some heads unearthed in 1925, reveals that the Nazca built their collection not from foreign enemies slain in battles, but from their own people.

Nazca pottery gives us very interesting information about the role of trophy heads, both in the hands of warriors and also in ritual activities, such as burials and ritual caches, said archaeologist and lead author Kelly Knudson of Arizona State University in Tempe.

We can use sophisticated laboratory techniques to answer very interesting questions about the past, even when the excavations took place almost 100 years ago, Knudson added.

The study examined 16 trophy heads of the Kroeber collection at Chicagos Field Museum of Natural History and 13 mummified bodies buried in the Nazca region.

Knudson and colleagues compared tooth enamel from the trophy heads with the mummified bodies.

The researchers looked for subtle differences in three elements, namely, strontium, oxygen and carbon, found in the samples.

These elements display slightly different atomic structures that vary by geographic location, basically reflecting where a person lived and what types of foods he or she consumed.

You are what you eat, and the elements you consume become a part of your bones chemical signature, explained Field Museum curator Ryan Williams.

Teeth from the trophy heads and from the mummified bodies showed no substantial differences in the ratios of these substances, showing that the trophy heads came from the Nazca themselves rather than from outsiders. (ANI)

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