The mystery of why ancient South American peoples who created the mysterious Nazca Lines also collected human heads as trophies has long puzzled scholars who theorize the heads may have been used in fertility rites, taken from enemies in battle or associated with ancestor veneration.
A recent study using specimens from Chicago’s Field Museum throws new light on the matter by establishing that trophy heads came from people who lived in the same place and were part of the same culture as those who collected them. These people lived 2,000 to 1,500 years ago.
Archaeologists determined that the severed heads were trophies because holes were made in the skulls allowing the heads to be suspended from woven cords. A debate has been raging for the past 100 years over their meaning.
Trophy heads in the Field collection were gathered from the Nazca Drainage of the arid southern Peruvian coast 80 years ago by noted American anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876-1960). He also collected remains of some people buried normally. In some cases, the trophy heads were buried with their collectors.
Because Nazca is among the driest places on Earth, said Ryan Williams, a Field Museum curator, the specimens Kroeber collected were very well preserved. The dead bodies were naturally mummified and some trophy heads still had their hair as well as the display cords attached to the skull. The museum also has several examples of Nazca pottery illustrated with trophy heads; some of the pots are on display in the museum’s Ancient Americas exhibition.
“Illustrations on some pots depict warriors and trophy heads,” said Williams. “But there are also scenes that link trophy heads to agricultural fertility. Mythical creatures depicted on some pots carry trophy heads as well.” …
via Discovery helps solve mystery of South American trophy heads | Astigan.com.
Interesting. They seem to have collected the heads of their own people. Stories like these should just stick to the facts.
How are they certain that the Nazca line makers also made the pottery? How are they certain that the creatures on the pots were mythical?
The word “trophy” makes too many assumptions about what the head keeper was thinking.