Bioarchaeological Analyses of Nasca "Trophy" Head Individuals from the Site of Zorropata, Las Trancas Valley, Peru (450-1000 C.E.)

Corina M. Kellner, Sarah L. Kerchusky, Danielle Dillon, C. Loren Buck, Frank C. Ramos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The acquisition, modification, and curation of heads was endemic in the ancient Andes, especially among the Nasca (1-650 C.E.) on the south coast of Peru. Analyzing this central cultural behavior in context is crucial to understanding how the Nasca flourished in a marginal region. While well-dated Nasca isolated heads (NIHs) are not common due to looting, we present new bioarchaeological, isotopic, and hormonal data on eight NIHs recovered from the archaeological village site of Zorropata located in the Las Trancas Valley (LTV), Nasca, Peru. The NIHs recovered are from a cache excavated scientifically in 2014. Zorropata dates to the Late Nasca and Middle Horizon (LN, MH; 450-1000 C.E.), a time period including social aggregation, conflict, and Wari imperial incursion. Located near the large Wari site of Huaca del Loro, Zorropata clearly was a defensive site, complete with walls and sling stones. This cache of Zorropata NIHs is stylistically Nasca and isotopic information shows varied diets and likely places of origin. We find that the majority of the individuals in this cache are non-local in contrast to other NIHs. Additionally, hair cortisol data give us a glimpse into the stress associated with death in these individuals. Our study highlights the advantage of analyzing well-dated Nasca individuals to place in context an important cultural behavior during a turbulent time of social and political change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-255
Number of pages23
JournalBioarchaeology International
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Andes
  • Nasca isolated
  • Zorropata
  • cortisol
  • isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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