Trophy-taking and dismemberment as warfare strategies in prehistoric central California
Article first published online: 19 JUN 2009
Copyright © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume 141, Issue 1, pages 83–96, January 2010
How to Cite
Andrushko, V. A., Schwitalla, A. W. and Walker, P. L. (2010), Trophy-taking and dismemberment as warfare strategies in prehistoric central California. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., 141: 83–96. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21117
- Issue published online: 9 DEC 2009
- Article first published online: 19 JUN 2009
- Manuscript Accepted: 12 MAY 2009
- Manuscript Received: 7 MAR 2009
- Native American;
We document evidence for trophy-taking and dismemberment with a new bioarchaeological database featuring 13,453 individuals from prehistoric central California sites. Our study reveals 76 individuals with perimortem removal of body parts consistent with trophy-taking or dismemberment; nine of these individuals display multiple types of trophy-taking and dismemberment for a total of 87 cases. Cases span almost 5,000 years, from the Early Period (3000–500 BC) to the Late Period (AD 900–1700). Collectively, these individuals share traits that distinguish them from the rest of the population: a high frequency of young adult males, an increased frequency of associated trauma, and a tendency towards multiple burials and haphazard burial positions. Eight examples of human bone artifacts were also found that appear related to trophy-taking. These characteristics suggest that trophy-taking and dismemberment were an important part of the warfare practices of central Californian tribes. Temporally, the two practices soared in the Early/Middle Transition Period (500–200 BC), which may have reflected a more complex sociopolitical system that encouraged the use of trophies for status acquisition, as well as the migration of outside groups that resulted in intensified conflict. Overall, trophy-taking and dismemberment appear to have been the product of the social geography of prehistoric central California, where culturally differentiated tribes lived in close proximity to their enemies. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.