Artificial Cranial Modification in San Pedro de Atacama and the Loa Basin a Quantitative Approach to its Role as a Marker of Social Identity



Diverse hypotheses have been proposed to explain artificial cranial modification (ACM) in South America. In the Atacama area (Northern Chile), some studies have concluded that it was used to create a communal identity that could serve to resist, or to form alliances with, different external groups (Inter Site Distinction hypothesis, this work). On the other hand, other studies have suggested that there was a relationship between ACM and the social status and gender of the individuals within the community (Intra Site Distinction hypothesis, this work). These studies, however, have relied mainly on typological methods and the archaeological contexts to which these modification categories are associated have been simplified as well. In this work we use a quantitative multivariate approach to assess the relationship between cranial morphology and funerary context. The modification patterns of populations inhabiting Northern Chile during the Formative (3500-1600 B.P) and Late Intermediate (950-500 B.P.) periods were studied. We analyzed the X-rays of 203 individuals belonging to 7 archaeological sites and, when possible, they were correlated with the corresponding funerary context. The results indicate that cranial morphology correlates with the interaction networks among sites, therefore these results support the Inter Site hypothesis.

In Revista Chilena de Antropología 34, 19-30 (2016)
Thomas A. Püschel
Thomas A. Püschel
Postdoctoral researcher

I am an evolutionary anthropologist and vertebrate palaeobiologist mainly focused on human, primate and mammalian evolution. My main interest is to study organismal evolution by reconstructing and comparing the palaeobiology of fossils to their living ecological relatives. In order to do this, I apply a combination of phylogenetics, 3D morphometrics, virtual biomechanical techniques, computational simulations, statistical modelling, phylogenetic comparative methods, and fieldwork. I am part of the Venditti group, University of Reading, within the framework of the Leverhulme project ‘The evolutionary and biogeographical routes to hominin diversity’. I am also a research affiliate at the Institute of Human Sciences, University of Oxford, where I work together with the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa, Mozambique.