Vertebrae strung on poles

Apparently, it was a practice of the indigenous peoples of Peru almost 600 years ago. In this way they joined the remains of their ancestors, desecrated by the Spanish conquistadors. Archaeologists were surprised to see the vertebrae strung on poles.

Vertebrae strung on poles were found in southern Peru.
Vertebrae strung on poles were found in southern Peru.

Shared custom

They explored 664 tombs in a 40-kilometer area in the Chincha Valley in Peru. They documented 192 examples of posts with coiled vertebrae. How did this practice come about? Perhaps in order to reassemble the scattered remains of the dead. The Spanish conquistadors had earlier looted the tombs.

to what date do they belong? They are between 1450 and 1650 AD. The Inca Empire was crumbling and European colonizers were consolidating their power. There was frequent desecration of the tombs of the locals by the Spaniards. The Chinchas were able to string spines in reeds to reconstruct their ancestors. Jacob Bongers, of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, believes so.

“There are 192 of these and they are widespread. We found them all over the Chincha Valley. Multiple groups of people coordinated and responded in a shared manner.” said to the portal LiveScience.

Many were around the chullpas, constructions of the time.
Many were around the chullpas, constructions of the time.

Reconstructing memory

Most were around large, elaborate stone tombs, called chullpas. They typically housed multiple burials. One of them contained the remains of hundreds of people. They were part of the Chincha Kingdom, “a wealthy society that dominated the Chincha Valley before the Inca Empire.”

Most of the poles contained bones belonging to a single individual. Although the spines were incomplete. Spinal vertebrae were threaded after the bodies were decomposed.

The Chincha kingdom had a population of about 30,000 in its heyday. At the end of the 15th century, it merged with the Inca Empire. The arrival of the Europeans meant its imminent disappearance. The looting of the Chincha tombs was intense. The vertebrae strung on poles were an attempt to restore some of their memory.

The findings were published february 2 in the magazine Antiquity.

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