Out of Light Came Darkness: Bioarchaeology of Mortuary Ritual, Health, and Ethnogenesis in the Lambayeque Valley Complex, North Coast Peru (AD 900-1750)
The last 10,000 years have witnessed a handful of major adaptive transitions experienced by the human species, the most recent, rapid, and violent of which was contact between Native Americans and Europeans beginning in the fifteenth century A.D. Humanity was irrevocably altered on a global scale as part of a "total biocultural phenomenon." This dissertation presents the first study of the human skeletal remains from a Central Andean historic population in the Lambayeque Valley Complex, north coast of Peru. Synthesizing archaeological, ethnohistoric, and bioarchaeological data, this work tests six linked hypotheses that the indigenous Mochica ethnic group experienced negative social and biological stress but dynamically adapted to the strains of Spanish colonialism through a culturally adaptive response. These hypotheses are tested using multiple lines of archaeological and skeletal biological datasets including 1,041 skeletons from the late pre-Hispanic period and the Colonial-era Chapel of San Pedro de Mórrope.
Examination of postcontact mortuary behaviors at Mórrope reveal their burials reflect ritual patterns that encoded syncretic interplays between the colonial order, Mochica agency and identity, cosmological roles of the dead, and resistance. Skeletal biological evidence at Mórrope illustrates an unprecedented increase in systemic biological stress, a shift to a more strenuous lifestyle, and a decline in oral health. Paleodemographic analyses suggest postcontact biological stress led to lowered female fertility. Elevated rates of periosteal infection, porotic hyperostosis, and decreased oral health correlate to increased population density and a shift to a greater consumption of dietary carbohydrates. Elevated prevalence of degenerative joint disease likely stems from Spanish labor extraction. Lowered prevalence of enamel hypoplasias and unchanged terminal adult stature point to surprising nutritional consequences that are only beginning to be understood but may point to a synergism between epidemic disease and biological adaptation.
Population genetic analyses reveal a major loss of Mochica genetic diversity in the postcontact era, but this was not likely driven by demographic collapse. Instead, changing boundaries and widened definitions of Mochica identity were components of the ethnogenesis of a Colonial Mochica culture, and it occurred in two phases: biological hybridization during the Early/Middle Colonial period, which was followed by cultural hybridization as inferred from syncretic Euro-Andean mortuary patterns observed in the Middle/Late Colonial mortuary sequence.
Ultimately, these findings aim to provide a preliminary, though detailed examination of the outcomes of contact in Peru. It underscores how colonial Spanish socioeconomic policies shaped the cultures, health, and microevolutionary trajectories of Native Americans in the Central Andes and the Americas as a whole. Methodologically, the dissertation highlights a new, integrative, and holistic configuration of method and theory between mortuary analysis and bioarchaeology to perceive of and decode the extent of meaning, symbolism, and significance of burials and their biological contents.
School:The Ohio State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:ancient health skeletal remains peru mochica sican paleopathology identity population genetics burial patterns biological stress
Date of Publication:01/01/2008