The origin of the Juch'uypampa Cave mummies: Strontium isotope analysis of archaeological human remains from Bolivia

Kelly J. Knudson, Tiffiny A. Tung, Kenneth C. Nystrom, T. Douglas Price, Paul D. Fullagar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Previous analyses of strontium isotopes from human bone and teeth have identified diverse patterns of residential mobility in the South Central Andes during the Middle Horizon (AD 500 - 1100). During this time, the large polity of Tiwanaku exerted great influence over what are now southern Peru, northern Chile, northwestern Argentina and Bolivia. Recently, five naturally-mummified individuals were discovered in the cave of Juch'uypampa in the Pulacayo region of southern Bolivia. Although these individuals were buried with a number of fine Tiwanaku-style grave goods as well as non-Tiwanaku items, the burial site is isolated and does not conform to the pattern of large Tiwanaku-affiliated cemeteries and residential sites outside of the Lake Titicaca Basin. Strontium isotope analysis was performed on enamel from two adult men and bone from a third adult male in order to test the hypotheses that one or more of the males was from either the Tiwanaku heartland in the Lake Titicaca Basin, the Chilean oasis of San Pedro de Atacama, which contains a series of cemeteries with Tiwanaku-style grave goods, or the local area in which they were buried. Results show that two individuals likely spent their childhood in the local area where they were interred, while the third man probably spent at least the last twenty years of his life in that region before being buried there. This raises interesting questions regarding the nature of Tiwanaku influence in southern Bolivia and the relationship between the Juch'uypampa mummies and the Tiwanaku polity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-913
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioarchaeology
  • South Central Andes
  • Strontium isotope analysis
  • Tiwanaku

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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