Chachapoya mortuary behavior: A consideration of method and meaning

Kenneth C. Nystrom, Jane Buikstra, Keith Muscutt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The Chachapoya region of northern Perú is characterized by a remarkable range of mortuary customs whose nature is incompletely defined and interpreted. The focus of this paper is to consider a single aspect of Chachapoya mortuary behavior: the presence/ absence and method of mummification. Complex, anthropogenic mummy bundles have been recovered from the Laguna de los Cóndores while less well documented and described "cadavers" and bodies have been illustrated from pre-Inca contexts, some contained within anthropomorphic sarcophagi and others located in burial chullpas and open-air sites. In this paper, we provide a general synthesis of Chachapoya mortuary behavior and then present a case study from the mortuary site of Laguna Huayabamba, a Late Intermediate site where mummified remains have been recovered. The relationship between mummified bodies and skeletal remains at this site is viewed as stages within a more unified ritual landscape, structured by continued kin-based access to specific mortuary contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-495
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Chachapoya
  • Inca
  • Mummification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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