• palaeoentomology;
  • Chachapoya;
  • mortuary behaviour reconstruction;
  • trepanation


This paper explores the contribution that applied forensic entomology can make to our understanding of prehistoric mortuary behaviour. Samples of insect remains were recovered from a mummy bundle that has been attributed to the Chachapoya people who occupied the northern highlands of Perú from ca. AD 800 to ca. AD 1532. The insects were identified to the family level and used to create a hypothetical timeline of post-mortem interval before the construction of the mummy bundle. The individual in question suffered from a number of blunt force insults to the head, followed by two and possibly three trepanation events. We speculate the initial insect colonisation to have taken place almost immediately following injury and subsequent surgery, occurring before the individual's death. Insect succession patterns and timing estimates for the appearance of periosteal reactive bone suggest that the individual was wrapped shortly following death. The application of such modern forensic techniques holds vast promise for addressing issues concerning Chachapoya mortuary behaviour and, further, these results can expand our understanding of mummy studies in general. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.