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Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru

Edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Anita G. Cook

Publication Year: 2001

Propitiating the supernatural forces that could grant bountiful crops or wipe out whole villages through natural disasters was a sacred duty in ancient Peruvian societies, as in many premodern cultures. Ritual sacrifices were considered necessary for this propitiation and for maintaining a proper reciprocal relationship between humans and the supernatural world. The essays in this book examine the archaeological evidence for ancient Peruvian sacrificial offerings of human beings, animals, and objects, as well as the cultural contexts in which the offerings occurred, from around 2500 B.C. until Inca times just before the Spanish Conquest. Major contributions come from the recent archaeological fieldwork of Steve Bourget, Anita Cook, and Alana Cordy-Collins, as well as from John Verano’s laboratory work on skeletal material from recent excavations. Mary Frame, who is a weaver as well as a scholar, offers rich new interpretations of Paracas burial garments, and Donald Proulx presents a fresh view of the nature of Nasca warfare. Elizabeth Benson’s essay provides a summary of sacrificial practices.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Contents

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pp. VII-

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

For many people in the modern Western world, making a sacrifice means either giving without receiving or giving up something valuable for a cause that may benefit others. For earlier societies almost everywhere, offerings were made for the greater good. Animals were sacrificed, and many kinds of treasured things were offered. The most valuable offering ...

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Chapter 1: Why Sacrifice?

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pp. 1-20

In the depths of anyone’s cultural heritage, all over the world, there is evidence of sacrifice—human and animal. Mythic supernatural beings were sacrificers and sacrificed. Ritual reenacts myth; human beings imitate what gods and sacred ancestors did.To sacrifice is to make sacred. Ritual may move far away ...

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Chapter 2: Decapitation in Cupisnique and Early Moche Societies

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pp. 21-34

... of the prehistoric Peruvian north coast were remarkable artists in clay, and their gold work was the finest of very early metal production in the Andes. Their ceremonial architecture, decorated with sculpture, was impressive. They were one of the earliest cultures to record decapitation graphically. A study of their art reveals five distinct supernatural head-takers: a spider, a bird of prey, a mon ...

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Chapter 3: Blood and the Moon Priestesses: Spondylus Shells in Moche Ceremony

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pp. 35-54

Archaeological and artistic evidence informs us that a primary ceremonial focus in Moche society was the ritual bleeding of bound males, captured in combat, and the drinking of their blood (Donnan 1978; Alva and Donnan 1993; Donnan and Castillo 1994). The only female in the roster ...

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Chapter 4: Blood, Fertility, and Transformation: Interwoven Themes in the Paracas Necropolis Embroideries

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pp. 55-92

The Necropolis of Wari Kayan on the Paracas Peninsula is the source of an extraordinarily rich textile legacy. Four hundred twenty-nine bundles were excavated at this south-coast site during the late 1920s by Julio C. Tello and his team. The funerary bundles were concentrated in two areas, or nuclei, ...

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Chapter 5: Children and Ancestors: Ritual Practices at the Moche Site of Huaca de la Luna, North Coast of Peru

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pp. 93-118

The massive sacrificial precinct recently discovered and studied at the Moche site of Huaca de la Luna, in the Moche Valley of the Peruvian north coast (Bourget 1997a), is one of the rare Moche sites to provide evidence of organized sacrificial practices outside of mortuary contexts. The only other examples now known are at Dos Cabezas ...

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Chapter 6: Ritual Uses of Trophy Heads in Ancient Nasca Society

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pp. 119-136

Centered in the Ica and Nasca Valleys of south coastal Peru, the ancient culture known as Nasca dominated a wide area of southern Peru between 100 B.C. and A.D. 700. Here the Nasca people practiced intensive agriculture in one of the driest and most formidable environments in the world. The vast desert that covers the coastal plain of ...

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Chapter 7: Huari D-Shaped Structures, Sacrificial Offerings, and Divine Rulership

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pp. 137-164

The Huari Empire coalesced in the Ayacucho Valley of Peru (Map I) during the Middle Horizon (A.D. 650 to 1000). Its development ushered in new architectural forms, urban living on a scale unknown prior to this time in the central highlands, and new ritual practices such as the breaking of large and beautifully painted urns and jars as buried offerings. These vessels display ...

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Chapter 8: The Physical Evidence of Human Sacrifice in Ancient Peru

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pp. 165-184

Descriptions of human sacrifice by the Inca and other native peoples of Andean South America are scattered through many of the early colonial-period Spanish chronicles and histories (Figure 8.I). These are not eyewitness accounts, but are generally secondhand descriptions by native informants. Unlike accounts from Mexico, where human sacrifice was witnessed firsthand by Spanish soldiers and priests in the ...

Bibliography

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pp. 185-204

Index

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pp. 205-211


E-ISBN-13: 9780292798212
E-ISBN-10: 0292798210
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292708938
Print-ISBN-10: 0292708939

Page Count: 227
Illustrations: 66 halftones, 47 line drawings, 3 maps, 2 charts
Publication Year: 2001

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Subject Headings

  • Indians of South America -- Peru -- Rites and ceremonies.
  • Indians of South America -- Peru -- Antiquities.
  • Human sacrifice -- Peru.
  • Sacrifice -- Peru.
  • Peru -- Antiquities.
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