The Influence of Tiwanaku on Life in the Chilean Atacama: Mortuary and Bodily Perspectives



ABSTRACT  Using a contextualized bioarchaeological framework, in this article, I examine the complex relationship between the Tiwanaku polity of the Bolivian altiplano (C.E. 550–1000) and the inhabitants of the San Pedro de Atacama oases of northern Chile, in Tiwanaku's far periphery. I focus on how influences from Tiwanaku might have affected the presentation of Atacameño group identity in the mortuary context. I compare skeletal and mortuary data from 300 individuals buried during the peak of Tiwanaku influence in the Atacama to assess mortuary context, trauma, and body modifications. Results suggest a complex response to Tiwanaku influence. Data from the grave and mortuary assemblage reveal traditional Atacameño tombs with occasional foreign objects. Evidence of increased traumatic injury suggests that this relationship was not without some conflict. Finally, the maintenance of bodily expressions of local identity indicates a society that used their bodies to mark Atacameño identity.