Wearing the marks of violence: Unusual trauma patterning at Coyo Oriental, Northern Chile

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2018 May 2. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23600. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objectives: In this article, we present analyses of traumatic injury data from the Middle Period Coyo Oriental cemetery in northern Chile. We test a series of hypotheses about the role of sex, foreign contact, ritual access, and temporal shifts, in the patterning of cranial trauma in this cemetery.

Methods: Two hundred and twenty-seven crania from Coyo Oriental were analyzed using standard bioarcheological methods to determine sex and age as well as the presence of cranial fractures. We also documented the presence of Tiwanaku goods, objects tied to warfare or hunting, camelid offerings, snuff paraphernalia, and items related to mining.

Results: We recorded 98 cranial fractures in the sample with 94.9% (93/98) on the anterior of the cranium. No significant differences are observed in the prevalence of trauma by sex, type of grave, or date. However, Coyo Oriental's trauma prevalence is two to three times higher than other Middle Period sites.

Conclusion: The prevalence and location of these injuries suggest that conflict at Coyo Oriental, while of the same nature, was at a scale different to that seen elsewhere in the oases. We posit here that the development of social hierarchy, population growth, expansive social networks, and foreign contact that characterized the Middle Period may have resulted in a need for social control among the emergent elites of the region.

Keywords: Andes; Middle Horizon; bioarcheology; cranial fractures.