Archaeologists unearth human spines threaded onto reed posts

Archaeologists have found almost 200 examples of human vertebrae threaded onto reed posts in the Chincha Valley of Peru.

The Chincha Valley had been home to the complex Chincha Kingdom from AD 1000-1400. They established an alliance with the Inca Empire and were eventually consolidated into it.

- Advertisement -

The discovery was made by an international team of researchers, who have published the results of their study in the journal Antiquity.

The team was excavating elaborate indigenous graves known as chullpas, where they found human vertebrae threaded onto reed posts that date from the 16th century AD.

Ultimately, the team discovered 192 examples, where in almost every case, each appears to have been made from the remains of a single individual.

Image Credit : Antiquity

An analysis suggests that the remains date from AD 1450-1650, coinciding with the end of Inca rule of the region and the start of European colonisation.

- Advertisement -

“Looting of Indigenous graves was widespread across the Chincha Valley in the Colonial period,” said Dr Jacob L. Bongers from the University of East Anglia. “Looting was primarily intended to remove grave goods made of gold and silver and would have gone hand in hand with European efforts to eradicate Indigenous religious practices and funerary customs.”

Additional analyses of the vertebrae-on-posts suggested that these items may have been created to repair the damage done by this looting.

Bodily integrity after death was important to many Indigenous groups in the region. The nearby Chinchorro people developed the first known techniques for artificial mummification, millennia before Ancient Egypt. When mummies in the Andes were destroyed by Europeans, Indigenous people salvaged what they could to make new ritual objects. The vertebrae-on-posts may have been part of a similar effort to reconstruct bodily integrity after looting. Find out more


Header Image Credit : Antiquity

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Stone box containing rare ceremonial offerings discovered at Tlatelolco

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a stone box containing ceremonial offerings during excavations of Temple "I", also known as the Great Basement, at the Tlatelolco archaeological zone.

Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill

Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

BU archaeologists uncover Iron Age victim of human sacrifice

Archaeologists from Bournemouth University have uncovered an Iron Age victim of human sacrifice in Dorset, England.

Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions

Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

Study indicates that Firth promontory could be an ancient crannog

A study by students from the University of the Highlands and Islands has revealed that a promontory in the Loch of Wasdale in Firth, Orkney, could be the remains of an ancient crannog.

Archaeologists identify the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II

Archaeologists from Sorbonne University have identified the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II, otherwise known as Ramesses the Great.

Archaeologists find missing head of Deva from the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom

Archaeologists from Cambodia’s national heritage authority (APSARA) have discovered the long-lost missing head of a Deva statue from the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom.

Archaeologists search crash site of WWII B-17 for lost pilot

Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology are excavating the crash site of a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress in an English woodland.