Human spines strung on wooden poles 500 years ago as part of a gruesome ritual have been discovered in Peru.
Nearly 200 examples of grim creations, believed to be attempts to regenerate bones from ransacked graves, have been found in the Chincha Valley.
Writing in an article published today, archaeologists say the vertebrae are believed to have been assembled between 1450 and 1650 AD.
This is consistent with a difficult period in the region’s history when Inca rule ended and European colonists looted native tombs.
Lead author Dr Jacob Bongers from the University of East Anglia said: “This is a tumultuous period in the history of the Chincha Valley, when epidemics and famine devastated the local population.
An international team of researchers has been looking for “pillar vertebrae” in indigenous tombs known as chullpas.
Hundreds of large, elaborate structures are scattered throughout the Chincha Valley, about 200 kilometers south of the Peruvian capital, Lima.
They discovered a total of 192 bone-encased pillars, each seemingly made of the remains of a single individual.
Researchers believe they were created as part of a ritual to recreate the dead after their graves were robbed.
At the time, European settlers regularly dug up bodies for valuable jewelry and other trinkets that were buried with them.
Dr Bongers said: “Indigenous grave theft was common throughout the Chincha Valley during the Colonial period.
“The looting was primarily aimed at removing serious goods made of gold and silver and would go hand in hand with European efforts to eradicate indigenous religious and burial customs.”
Analysis of the remains shows that they were put together to repair damage caused by looters.
Radiocarbon dating shows bones strung with reeds after burial
Keeping the body intact after death is important to many indigenous groups in the region.
“Our findings suggest that the abutment vertebrae represent a direct, ritualized and indigenous response to European colonialism,” said Dr Bongers.
The Chincha Valley was home to the Chincha Kingdom from AD 1000-1400 before the group later merged with the Incas.
The colonization of Europe proved disastrous for the group, with its population
dropped from more than 30,000 heads of household in 1533, to 979 in 1583.
The study was published Wednesday in the journal Ancient.
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https://www.thesun.ie/news/8300537/human-spines-threaded-onto-posts-death-ritual-peru/ 500-year-old real human divinity featured in posts as part of grim death ritual found in Peru