“Violent Encounters in Andes Warfare, Trophy-taking, and Sacrifice” will be the topic of an upcoming lecture at the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center at the Gray Fossil Site on Saturday, June 29th, at noon. The event is free and open to the public, and guests are invited to bring their lunch.
The talk will be given by bioarchaeologist Rachel Witt, who analyzes human skeletal remains to uncover the past experiences of pre-colonial Andean populations in South America. Her research investigates how the policies and practices of independent communities verses those of imperial states affected morbidity, physical activity patterns, and exposure to violence. Witt also examines the funerary practices, social differentiation, and community identity with and between cemetery sectors of the north-central highlands, Peru.
Witt’s talk will deal with the archaeological study of human skeletal remains, known as bioarchaeology, and its usefulness in identifying and interpreting conflict in pre-colonial societies of South America. Prior to Spanish contact, all Andean populations were alliterate and produced no written documents, so bioarchaeology is crucial in understanding how acts of violence influenced the creation, expansion, and dissolution of pre-contact societies. Studying wound morphology, location and frequency allow scientists to infer types of conflict, such as warfare, ritualized violence, or human sacrifice. Drawing on previous studies, osteological analysis demonstrates that environmental disasters, territorial expansion, and social domination provoked violent encounters in the Andes.
For the last three years, Witt has worked with several projects in Peru, including the Ayacucho Bioarchaeology Project with La Universidad Nacional de San Cristōbal de Huamanga, Proyecto Bionarqueolōgico Coporaque, and PIARA (Proyecto de Investigaticón Arqueológico Regional Ancash). She received her B.A. in anthropology and history of art from Vanderbilt University and currently serves as Curatorial Assistant at the Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site.
Witt’s “the Bioarchaeology of Warfare, Trophy-taking, and Sacrifice in the Andes” presentation is part of the lunchtime lecture series hosted by the museum and is sponsored by the ETSU Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology. Interested persons should visit www.etsu.edu/naturalhistorymuseum for dates and times of future lectures.
The museum is open for summer hours Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, or to arrange special assistance for persons with disabilities, call (866) 202-6223.