Modified Human Skulls from the Urban Sector of the Pyramids of

JohnW. Verano,SantiagoUceda, Claude Chapdelaine,RicardoTello, MariaIsabel Paredes,and
Victor Pimentel
Recent excavations in the urban sector of the Pyramids at Moche in northerncoastal Peru exposed two modified humanskulls
that were placed in an adobe niche within a domestic structure I00 m west of the Pyramid of the Moon ca. A.D. 400-650. A
portion of the cranial vault is cut awayfrom the top of each skull, and one shows drilled holes for attachmentof the mandible.
The skulls show a close resemblance to certain Moche ceramic skulljars that have a similar opening at the top of the vessel.
Osteological analysis indicates that both skulls are of young adult males. Cut marks on the external surfaces of the cranial
vault,face, and mandible indicate that they were preparedfromfleshed heads and not from dry skulls. Thefinds at Moche are
thefirst documentedexamples of thisform of cranial modification, although an early Spanish account describes a similar trophy vessel that belonged to the lnka Atahualpa. Comparisonof the Moche modifiedskulls with Nasca trophyheads reveals that
the two were prepared and leseddifJ7erently.
En excavaciones recientesen el sector urbanodel sitio de las Piramidesde Moche en la costa norte del Peru'se descubrierondos
cra'neoshumanosmodificadosque habian sido colocados en un nicho de adobe, dentrode una estructuradome'sticaa I00 m al
oeste de la Piramidede la Luna ca. 400-650 d.C. En cada caso, unaporcion de la bo'vedacraneanafue removida,y una de ellas
muestraperforacioneshechaspara articular la mandfbula.Ambospresentanuna gran semejanzacon cera'micaMoche enforma
de craneo, que tienen aberturassimilares en su parte superior.El analisis osteolo'gicoindica que estos craneos pertenecierona
varonesadultosjovenes. Ambospresentanmarcas de corte en las superficiesexternasde la bo'vedacraneal, la cara y mandibula
realizadasduranteel proceso de descarnamiento,lo cual indica quefueron preparadosa partir de cabezas, y no a partir de cra'neos ya secos. Estos hallazgos en Moche so1 los primernsejemplos documentadosde este tipo de modificacio'ncraneal, aunque
un reporteespanol tempranomenciona una vasija trofeo semejanteque pertenecio al Inca Atahualpa.La comparacionde estos
craneos modificadosMoche con las cabezas-trofeoNasca revela diferencias significativas tanto en el me'todode preparacio'n,
como en su posible funcio'n.
of isolatedhumanskullsandmummified heads have been reportedfrom a number of Andeanarchaeologicalsites (Verano
1995). Some of these for example at Chavin de
Huantar(Burger 1984:31), Huari (Brewster-Wray
1983),andPikillacta(McEwan1987:39) appearto
representthe secondaryreburialof humanremains
as dedicatoryofferingsin architectura]features.In
skulls show clear evidence of intentionaldecapitation and perimortemmodification,suggesting that
headsweretakenfromcaptivesor sacrificialvictims
as trophiesor ritualobjects.Ethnohistoricaccounts
andiconographicdepictionssuggestthatthe collection andmodificationof humanheadswas a temporally and geographically widespread practice in
SouthAmerica(Browneet al. 1993; Cordy-Collins
1992; Proulx 1971, 1989;Verano1995). However,
osteologicalevidenceof decapitationandmodification of humanheads is relativelyrarein the archaeologicalrecord,withtheexceptionof thewell-known
mummifiedtrophyheads of the Nasca culture of
southerncoastal Peru (Browneet al. 1993; Verano
John W. Verano * Departmentof Anthropology7Tulane University, 1021 Audubon Street, New Orleans, LA 701 18, USA
Santiago Uceda * Facultadde Ciencias Sociales, UniversidadNacional de Trujillo, CiudadUniversitaria,Avenida Juan Pablo
II s/n, Trujillo, Peru
Claude Chapdelaine * Departementd'anthropologie, Universite de Montreal,C.P. 6128, succursale Centre- ville, Montreal,
Quebec H3C 3J7, Canada
Ricardo Tello, Maria Isabel Paredes, and Victor Pimentel * Proyecto Arqueologico Huaca de la Luna, Universidad
Nacional de Trujillo, Jr. Junin 682, Trujillo, Peru
LatinAmencan Antiquity,10(1), 1999, pp. 59-70
Copyright(C)1999 by the Society for AmericanArchaeology
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10, No. 1, 1999]
J Areaof Mocheocc j abon
of DonaldMcClelland,FowlerMuseumof Cultural
Figure1. Map of the northcoast of Peru (Courtesy
of a
In this report,we presentthe first evidence
new and distinctiveform of "trophy"skull from
modifiing evidenceof perimortemdefleshingand
in the formof human
markson the external
prethat they were preparedfrom fleshed heads,
membermentof prisonersarewell
denceto supporttheargumentthatMochedepictions
of prisonercaptureandsacrificereflectactualevents,
Donnot simply mythologicalnarrative(Alva and
nan 1993; Bourget 1997a, 1997b;
Castillo 1994).
The two modified humanskulls were found
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Figure 2. Location of ZUM Sector 8 (modified after Shimada 1994: Figure 2.1).
July 1996 during excavationsin a room complex
located approximately100 m west of the Pyramid
of the Moon at the site of the Pyramidsat Moche in
northerncoastalPeru (Figure1). Excavationof the
complex, designated ZUM 8, was supervised by
RicardoTellounderthe auspicesof theZonaUrbana
Moche (ZUM) Project. John Verano and Laurel
Andersonof TulaneUniversityexposedandremoved
the skulls, which were subsequentlyreconstructed
and analyzed by Verano at the Archaeological
Museum of the National University of Trujillo.
Archaeologists Maria Isabel Paredes and Victor
Pimentelanalyzedthe associatedceramics.
The Proyecto Zona UrbanaMoche was establishedin 1995 as a long-termstudyof the urbansec-
tor of the Pyramidsat Moche (Uceda et al. 1997).
The projectinvolvesresearchersand studentsfrom
theUniversityof MontrealandtheUniversityof Trujillo, andoperatesunderthe auspicesof theProyecto
Huaca de La Luna, codirectedby SantiagoUceda
and RicardoMorales of the Departmentof Social
SciencesattheNationalUniversityof Trujillo(Uceda
andMorales1993,1994, 1996). Overthe pastthree
years,surfacesurveyandexcavationof theurbansectoratMochehasrevealednew informationaboutthe
site-identifying residential complexes, artisan
workshops, storage areas, streets, and plazas
(Chapdelaine 1997)-that along with the monumentalPyramidsof the SunandMoonconstitutethe
urbancore of the site (Uceda et al. 1997).
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[Vol. 10, No 1, 19991
Figure 3. Plan of ZUM 8. Arrow at bottom left indicates the niche where the skulls were found.
The skullswere foundin UrbanSector8 (Figure to thewest by a canalthatcutsthroughvariousarchi2), on the west side of a platformexcavatedby Max tecturalunits leading to a ceramicproductionarea
IJhlein thelatenineteenthcenturydesignatedSite"F' southof ZUM 8, andto theeastby a patiowithraised
(Kroeber1925;Uhle 1915).Recentexcavationsreveal benchesthatforms a cornerwith Uhle's Site F.
The skullswere foundin one of five niches built
ZUM 8 to be aneliteresidentialareawithatleastfour
distinctconstructionphases. The room complex in within the southernwall of a residentialstructure
which the skulls were found, which correspondsto locatedin thecenterof ZUM 8. Thenichesarequadthe secondconstructionphase,is L-shaped,approxi- rangularin form,approximately60 cm to a side,with
mately25 x 20 m in maximumdimensions,with its access from above. Four of the niches were filled
long armorientedN-NE/S-SE(Figure3). The com- with clean sand.The niche with the skulls, in conplex is composedof a seriesof roomsandpatioswith trast,was filled with a compactsedimentcontaining
raisedbenchesconstructedof adobewith clay-plas- fragmentsof pottery,charcoal,the completescapula
found of a camelid,and variousfragmentsof animalbone
teredwallsandfloors.A charcoalconcentration
in associationwitharaisedbenchin thesouthernpatio (Figure4). The natureof the niche fill (fragmentsof
(CuadroC2, Unidad2, CapaC) builtduringthe sec- potteryandapparentdomesticrefuse)andthelackof
ond constructionphaseyielded a dateof 1520 + 50 any apparentcarein placementor onentationof the
B.P.(Beta-96033),witha 2 sigmacalibrationof A.D. skullssuggestsa ratherperfunctoryburial.The niche
43(K45. This datefits well withina seriesof radio- lays underan intactfloor correspondingto the third
carbondatesfromMocheIV contextsin thecenterof constructionphaseof ZUM 8.
A relativedate for the niche depositcan be estithe urbansector(Chapdelaine1997:75-79).
The southernlimit of the complex is definedby mated from ceramicsrecoveredfrom the floors of
a thick wall that extends eastwardto the principal the complex and withinthe niche itself. Diagnostic
platformof the Pyramidof the Moon. It is delimited ceramicsherdsfoundon thefloorsof the secondcon-
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Figure 4. Photographof the niche during excavation,
showingSkull 1 (a), Skull 2 (b) and the camelidscapula
(c). Skull 1 lies on its left side, with the mandiblearticulated.Skull 2, whichlacks a mandible,lies face down.
structionphaseof ZUM 8 correspondstylisticallyto
LarcoHoyle's MochePhaseIV (LarcoHoyle 1938,
1939).A totalof 27 ceramicfragmentswere recoveredfromthe niche. Of these,5 areportionsof vessel rims, 3 are fragmentsshowing decoration,and
19 arenondecoratedbody sherds.One of the decoratedfragmentsis partof a moldmadefigurineor
musical instrument;the other two are small fragmentsof decoratedbottles.The rim fragmentsrepresent jars of several forms that are similar to
domestic vessels found in other habitationalcomplexes between the two pyramids and resemble
domestic vessels that Donnanhas describedfrom
Moche sites in the Santa Valley (Donnan
1973:82 93). Soot on the externalsurfaceof one of
thejarssuggestsuse as a cookingvessel,andtheinteriorsurfaceof theneckof one of thevesselshasthree
obliquely orientedincised lines, probablymaker's
marks(Donnan 1973:93 95).
Figure5 a, b. Photographand drawingof Skull1. Crosshatchedareasin the drawingindicatemissingbones.
Skull 1
Skull 1 consists of most of the left side of the vault
(left zygomatic and maxilla), and most of the
mandible(Figure5). The left maxillahas two teeth
still present in their sockets: the canine and first
molar.A lowercentralincisorwasfoundin thesocket
of the left firstpremolar.All otheralveoli are filled
Description of the Skulls
with dirt, indicatingpostmortemloss of the correTechnicallyspeaking,the two "skulls' foundin the spondingteeth.
nicheareincompletecrania, oneof whichhasanassoThe left half of the mandibleis completeexcept
ciatedmandible.For simplicityof description,how- for minor breakageof the coronoid process and
ever,theywill be referredto as Skull 1 andSkull2.
condyle. About one-third of the right horizontal
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ramusis preserved,with breakageposteriorto the
secondmolar.Thefollowingteetharepresentin their
properalveoli:left canine( l/2 of crownmissing;old
breakage),P3 , M2;right Il (root only; old breakage), P3 (root only; old breakage),P4, Ml, M2.The
left first molarwas lost antemortem,and its socket
is fullyresorbed.An upperleftthirdmolarwas found
occupyingthe socket of the lower left thirdmolar.
Its rootshadbeen modified(below) to allow it to fit
into the socket.
The morphologyof the socketsof the left upper
andwere in occlusion at the time of death.The single upperthirdmolartooth, if it indeedbelongs to
this individual(below), shows bluntingand polishing of the cusps, indicatingthatit was in occlusion
for some periodof time priorto death.Teethstill in
properpositionshow wear consistentwith a young
adult(ca.20 to 35 years),basedon attritionratesseen
in other Moche skeletal samples (Verano1997a).
Estimationof age on the basis of cranialsutureclosureis hardto evaluatedueto thefragmentary
of the skull,butvisibleportionsof thecoronalsuture
show no obliterationinternallyor externally.Morphology of the chin and size of the left mastoid
processstronglysuggest male sex.
Modificationsto Skull 1 includethe removalof
a portion of the skull vault, the drilling of holes
throughthe mandibleand temporalbone, filing of
tooth roots, and cut marksindicativeof intentional
defleshing. The top of the vault has a large oval
defect, approximately103 mm in maximumdiameter at the level of the externaltable.The defect is
beveled inward,such thatits maximumdiameterat
the internaltableis 94 mm. The lateralmarginsare
not preserved sufficiently to measure maximum
diameterin the coronalplane,butit appearsthatthe
openingwas slightlymorenarrowside to side than
frontto back.The bone appearsto havebeen cut by
repeatedgroovingwitha sharpinstrument.
the defect is similar to trephineopenings seen in
skulls from various central and southernAndean
highlandsites, as well as some OldWorldexamples
(e.g., Lisowski 1967), surgeryon a living patientis
unlikely in this case, as there is no evidence that
waspracticedby theMocheorotherPrecolumbianculturesof the northcoast of Peru(Lastres andCabieses 1960;Verano1998a).
The mandiblehas two holes drilledthroughthe
[Vol. 10, No. 1,1999]
Figure 6. Teeth with modified roots, Skull 1.
onejustbelowthecondyle.All threeholesareapproximately4 mmin maximumdiameterandweredrilled
fromthe outsidein, as theyareconicalin cross-section and largerin diameteron the external(lateral)
surfaceof theramus.Twoholesalsoweredrilledverticallythroughthezygomaticprocessof thelefttemporalbone Presumably,cordswerepassedthrough
theseholesto attachthemandibleto thecranium.The
right temporalbone and ascending ramus of the
mandibleare not preservedsbut presumablywere
perforatedas well. A single hole also was drilled
throughthemastoidprocessof thelefttemporalbone
(Figure5). This hole does not seem to be relatedto
the attachmentof the mandible;it may have served
to hold an earornamentor otherobject.
Four teeth show filed or cut roots (Figure 6).
Apparentlytherootsweremodifiedso thattheycould
enteran emptyalveolusandreplacea tooththathad
been lost postmortem.Two of these (mentioned
above)were foundin socketsto which they clearly
did not belong, while two othermolarswere found
loose in the niche fill. All teeth are pennanentand
have occlusalwearcompatiblewith the seventeeth
still in theirpropersockets.It is likely thatthe modified teeth are from this same individual,although
they may have been obtainedfrom skulls of other
individualsof similarage.
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t: l:
tion of occipital,andrighttemporal)andportionsof
the base of the skull are preserved,includingthe
basioccipital,distalportionof thebasisphenoid,and
the left occipital condyle. The right temporalwas
brokenin a numberof pieces, but could be reconstructed,and it was found to have no perforations
throughthe zygomaticarchor throughthe mastoid
process. The left temporaIis less complete, but
enoughof the zygomaticprocessis presentto indicate that no drilled holes are present.T}le face is
fragmentedbut the maxillae and zygomatics are
nearlycomplete,except for some of the thin bones
of the nasal processesand the cheek area.The folSkull 2
lowingteetharepresentandin theirsockets:the left
Skull2 is morecompletein somerespectsthanSkull canine, M1and M2; and the right M1 3. All other
1, althoughit lacks a mandible(Figure7). Most of socketsareemptyand show no alveolarresorption,
the vaultbones(thefrontal,parietals,squamouspor- indicatingthatthe teethwere lost postmortem.The
only tooth found loose was the right M3. Its roots
76 mm.
show no evidenceof modification.
The spheno-occipital synchondrosis (basilar
suture)is obliterated,suggestingan age of at least
20 years (McKern1970). Cusp wear on the upper
molarsis similarto thatof Skull l, consistentwith
anage atdeathof approximately20 to 30 years.Size
of the rightmastoidprocessandzygomaticsandthe
prominenceof GlabelIasuggestmale sex.
Evidence of culturalmodificationof Skull 2 is
limitedto removalof a portionof the vaultandcut
markson variousbones. The vaultopeningis estimatedto havebeen approximately80 mm in maximumdiameter.Like Skull 1, the openingis beveled
inwardandappearsto havebeen madeby repetitive
grooving with a sharp instrument Numerous
scratchescan be seen on the outertable aroundthe
marginsof the opening(Figure8).
the squamousportionof the occipitalbone, on the
rightparietalacrossthe temporalline on the maxilla and along the orbitalmarginof the left zygomatic.The preservedportionof the base of the skull
shows no cut marksor fractures.The absence of
damageto the lfaseof the skull is an importantdistinction from Nasca trophyheads from the south
coast of Peru (see below), which invariablyshow
damageto the base of the skullthatoccurreddursng
removalof the braln(VeranoI9957 1997b).
Cut marksare presenton the alveolarand nasal
processesof the left maxillaandon the lateralaspect
of the left zygomatic(Figure5). The mandiblehas
four cut markson the posteriormarginof the left
marksaroundthe mentalspinesanddigastricfossae
on the posteriorsurfaceof the body. These marks
appear to reflect intentional defleshing, and are
importantin indicatingthat a fleshed head rather
thana dry skull was selectedfor modification.Presumablythe vaultwas openedat this time as well to
removethe brain.
Figure7a, b. Photograph(lower)and drawing(upper)of
Skull 2. Cross-hatchedareas in the drawing indicate Priorto thisfinding,intentionally
thenorthcoastof Peru.Exan-
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[Vol. 10, No. 1, 1999]
Figure8. Anteriormarginof vaultdefect,Skull2, showingscratches.
ples of Mocheceramicjarsin theformof skullbowls
areknown however(Figure9)*Thespecificfunction
of thesejars is unknown,althoughthey areclearly
vessels that cowldhold solids or liquids. Unfortunately the exarnpleswe have examinedin museum
collectionsdo nothavegood archaeologicalcontext
butpresumablythey were excavatedfromtombs.
To make an actualskull hold liquid one would
needto seal numerowsforaminaandfissuresorplace
some formof bowl (wramic meAl orgourd)within
the cranialcavity.No tracesof such a sealantor of
bowls were foundin Skull 1 or 2, althoughit should
be notedthatthe skullsarefragmentvyandverylittle of the cranialfossae are preserved.In addition
preservationof organicremainsis generallypoor at
Moche and gourds or organicsealants tnight not
have preserved.Xurd platesand bowls are known
to have been used extensively by the Mshe, but
they are poorly representedin the archaeobgical
record(Donnan1995: 143-146).
The use of humanskulls as ceremonialdrinking
vessels is not unknown in the Andes. One that
belongedto the InkaAtahualpawas describedin a
sixteenth-centuryaccount: "One of Atahualpa?s
favouritepossessionswas the head of Atoc one of
Huascs generals ..??Cristobalde Mena saw this
'4headwithits skin,driedfleshandhair.Itsteethwere
closed andheld a silverspout.On top of the heada
golden bowl was attached.Atahualpaused to drink
from it when he was remindedof the wars waged
againsthim by his brother"(Hemming 1970:54).
The Moche skulls may have serveda similarfunction althoughapparentlytheyweredefleshedrather
than mummified. The fact that the two skulls
belongedto youngadultmalesis significantas well?
as a Moche sacrificialsite containingthe skeletal
remainsof dozens of adolescentand young adult
males was diseoveredin 1995in a courtyardbehind
ffiePyramidof theMoon?approximately150m from
ZUM 8 (Bvurget 1997a 1997b; Verano 1998b,
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Figure 9. Moche ceramic vessel in the form of a skull
(National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian
Institution,catalognumber148021.Height:15 cm; diameter of opening:9 cm).
1998c).Ceramicsassociatedwiththe sacrificialvictims and a radiocarbondate from a wooden post
found in an associatedadobe platform(1470 + 80
B.P., Beta 96035; A.D. 425-690, 2 sigmas, calibrated)suggestthatthe modifiedskullsandthe sacrificialsite areroughlycontemporary.
Decapitation and Modificationof HumanHeads
Decapitation,usuallyat the handsof supernaturals,
is a relativelycommonthemein Mocheiconography
(e.g., Donnan1978, figs. 106, 151, 152, 205; Moser
1974), and appearsto have deep rootsin the artistic
traditionsof the northcoast of Peru(Cordy-Collins
1992, 1998).Moche artistsalso depicteddisembodied headsin scenesinvolvingthe sacrificeof prisoners (Figure10). Sometimesthe heads are shownas
isolated elements, as in Figure 10, or placed atop
poles (Benson 1972:Figure5-16). Some havea rope
passedthroughthe mouth,apparentlyto allowthem
to be carriedor tied to anotherobject(Figure11).
Moche iconographysuggests thathumanheads
were collected and manipulatedin various ways.
Until recently,however,therewas no archaeological evidence to confirmthis. Recentdiscoveriesof
decapitatedindividualsat the Pyramidof the Moon
at Moche (Bourget1997a, 1997b) andat the Moche
site of Dos Cabezasin the JequetepequeRivervalley (Cordy-Collins1998) providesome of the first
osteological evidence of such behavior.The two
skullsfromZUM 8 describedin thisreportaddnew
informationon the postmortemfate of particular
Skulls 1 and 2 show differencesin preparation
techniquethatmay be of significance.Forexample,
Skull 2 does not have a mandible.Althoughit may
have been presentat one time but lost priorto burial, the lack of drilledholes in the zygomaticarches
indicatethatit wouldhavebeen attachedin a different mannerthanwas thecase in Skull 1. Skull2 also
lacks a perforatedmastoidprocess.Althoughthese
differencescouldreflectnothingmorethanindividual choices madeby the personpreparingthe skull,
preparationdetailssuch as the presenceor absence
Figure10. Roll-outdrawingof a MocheIV vesselshowingthe arraignmentand sacrificeof prisoners.An isolatedhead,
presumablyof a decapitatedvictim,can be seen in the lowerrightcorner(Vesselfromthe collectionsof theAmerican
Museumof NaturalHLstory,
NewYork;Drawingby DonnaMcClelland).
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[Vol. 10, No. 1,1999]
Figure 12. Nasca trophy head. In this example the carrying cord is composed of hair cut from the victim's head
(Courtesy of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia,
Arqueologia, y Historia, Lima; catalog number AF: 7050).
Figure 11. Moche depictions of heads with rope passed
through the mouth: (a) from Donnan 197X:Figure 274;
(b) detail of a spout and handle bottle in the collections of
the Instituto Departmental de la Cultura, Trujillo (photograph courtesy of Christopher Donnan).
of ear ornamentsmay have markedthe social rank
of a victim or indicateddifferentuses for particular
skulls.The postmortemloss of many teeth and the
modificationandreinsertionof teethintoemptyalveoli does suggestthattherewas substantialuse of the
skullspriorto theirburialin the niche.
Although"trophyheads"arecommonin theiconography of many ancient Andean societies, actual
examples of severed human heads and modified
human skulls are relativelyrare (Verano1995). A
notableexceptionaremummifiedheadsof theNasca
culture of the south coast of Peru (Proulx 1971,
1989),of whichmorethan100 examplesareknown
(Baraybar1987;Browneet al. 1993;Verano1995).
Nascatrophyheadswerepreparedin a mannerquite
distinctfrom thatof the skulls at Moche, involving
removalof the brainthroughthe base of the skull
and punchingout a small perforationin the frontal
bone to attacha carryingcord (Baraybar1987;Verano 1995).Nascatrophyheadsweremummified,and
well-preservedexamplesstill retainskin, hair,and
carryingcords(Figure12).The orbitsandcheeksof
many are stuffedwith cloth, apparentlyto give the
heada lifelikeappearance.Nascaheadsdo not have
anopeningatthetopof theskull,however;andcould
not have served as drinklngvessels. They are thus
quitedistinctin preparationandpresumedfunction
fromthe modif1edskullsat Moche.Nevertheless,it
is interestingto notesomesimilaritiesbetweenNasca
trophyheadsandthe Moche skullsin theircuration
andfinal deposition.Nasca trophyheads show evidence of having been carefullypreparedand preserved.The complex treatmentof the head, which
includedremovalof the brain,muscles,andsoft tissue structuresat the base of the skull and the stuffing of cheeks and eye orbitsimpliesthatthey were
preparedfor extendeduse and display.After some
periodof use theseheadswerecarefullyburied.The
mostfrequentlyobservedpatternis theburialof individualheadsorcachesof headsunderfloorsorwithin
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thefill of ceremonialarchitecture(NeiraandCoelho
1972; Proulx 1989).Althoughtwo caches of Nasca
trophyheads have been found in cemeteries,only
rarely do such heads occur as grave offerings in
Nascatombs(Cannichael1988:482483). Themodified skullsfromMochearesimilarin showingcareful preparation
as well as extendeduse as is indicated
by missing andreplacedteeth.Moreover,they were
recoverednot from a mortuarycontext but from a
niche in an elite residential compound. It would
appear that the Moche skulls, like Nasca trophy
but were buriedas isolated offeringsfollowing an
extendedperiodof use.
Signiflcance of the Skulls from the Pyramids
of Moche
The two skulls describedin this reportare significantfor severalreasons.They arethe firstexamples
of intentionallymodifiedskullsto be reportedfrom
thenorthcoastof Peru,andthefirstosteologicalparallel forceramicskullvessels createdby Mocheartisans. The specific function of these vessels is
unknown,as thereareno depictionsin Mocheartthat
showthembeingheld or used.Presumablytheyhad
some functionrelatedto the presentationand sacrifice of prisoners.Cut markson the skulls indicate
clearlythatthey were preparedfrom fleshed heads
andnotdryskulls.TheirdiscoveryatMoche,in close
proximityto a sacrificialsite at the Pyramidof the
Moon, and the fact thatboth skulls appearto be of
sacrificedcaptives.Moreresearchremainsto be done
before the natureand context of human sacrifice
amongtheMocheis fullyunderstood,butthesemodified skullscontributeto a growingbodyof evidence
for sacrificialpracticespreviouslyknownonly from
Moche iconography.
Acknowledgments.The Proyecto Arqueologico Huaca de la
Luna is grateful for financial support from the Union de
Cervecerias PeruanasBackus y Johnston, the Municipalidad
Provincial de Trujillo, Gobierno Regional de La Libertad,
and the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo. Funding for
Chapdelaine's research was provided by a three year grant
from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
of Canada. Verano's research was made possible by a
FulbrightLectureshipat the UniversidadNacional de Trujillo
granted by the Council for the International Exchange of
Scholars. Figure 1 is courtesy of Donald McClelland of the
Fowler Museum of Cultural History; Figures 2 and 3 were
drafted by Carlos Ayesta, and Figures S and 7 by Gustavo
Perez of the ProyectoArqueologico Huaca de la Luna;Figure
10 is courtesy of Donna McClelland. Finally, we are grateful
for the suggestions and comments of four external reviewers.
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