Thursday, November 6, 2014

Application Process and Schedule 2015

Dates May 29 - June 18th, 2015

The project is focused on three aspects of research and we follow different techniques in the field and laboratory:

 Archaeology:  This part of the program involves archaeological excavations in different types of structures in Huamparán; our goal is for the student to learn to identify stratigraphic layers, be able to fully fill out an excavation form, and improve archaeological drawing. We will examine different material recovered during present and past seasons (ex.pottery, lithics). Some short surveys will be considered in the areas surrounding (if the weather permits). Experience is not required.

Bio-archaeology: This program consists of survey in site with  human remains and bone identification in situ.  The excavations takes place in Huamparán site. Previous experience is not required to be able to participate in this program.

Laboratory:  analysis of human remains from Marcajirca site and from surveys. The bone analyses are performed in order to obtain biological data from the remains recovered by students themselves during the current season or from previous excavations. 

All the participants in the team will rotate between different parts of research so that everyone gets to try everything. However, based on progress and skill for determined areas (ex. lab) if a participant chooses to work only in one area, it will be considered, keeping in mind that the number of students is manageable by a supervisor for that area. 

We will allow using data from our excavation for posters; expecting that respective credit for supervisors and the director of the project is given.


May 29: Meeting in Huaraz museum (morning).
May 30:  Travel Huaraz – Huari
June 1-2:  Lectures and Bone work practice in Huari
June 3-18: Camping, Survey and working in Huamparan.
June 19: Visit Chavin de Huantar.
June 20: Travel  Huari -Huaraz-Lima.


For further information and an application please contact Margarita:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bioarchaeological Research in Huari Ancash Project

The bio-archeaological research is an important part of the project. Marcajirca has many funerary structures, known as chullpas, as well as caves, and semi-caves with human remains. For this reason Marcajirca has enormous potential for physical anthropological studies. This ensemble, (chullpas, caves and semicaves) around 50, most of them, with human bone remains inside. As the site is far from the city, we think it is necessary to implement a strategy which helps us to make quick analyses and optimize results.

The project is focusing on the Late Intermediate Period (1200-1400 AP). During this period there are 2 ethnic groups in the region. We want to compare the DNA of human bones from sites against other sites and the other group ethnic, because this group has been identified through ethno-historical information. Of course, our archaeological evidence will help us to have more information to make these comparisons.

Why are tombs dug and bones analysed? The first aim of the research is to know the cult to ancestors; this subject has a deep relationship with funeral patterns. In this case, it is necessary to answer questions such as: were all persons buried in one tomb families or were there other relationships? Were the tombs re-used? Is there a chronological difference between the tombs?

Facing this question, we have designed a strategy which lets us answer these questions. First it would be necessary to determine the minimum number of persons buried in one tomb and we think IT is possible carry out this type of analysis on site. In order to determine if members from one family were buried in one tomb, we need to take bone samples for DNA analyses. To determine if tombs were re-used, first we need to take bone samples for radio carbonic analyses after which the bones are contrasted to determine the bones’ age with DNA analyses. This procedure will help us to determine the chronology of tombs.

How determinate which bone is older that other a cave is a big problem, due that the archaeological material recover tell us the place was use for long time, in future analyzes, such as DNA and other we will use to determinate the history of bone into the chullpas.

As well we want to know if is possible to difference two ethnics groups, who are identificated by ethno historical documents, but the archaeological evidence is not very clear, so we expecting compared funeral patter from both groups and after comparated DNA from bone both territories. Our project looks for work archaeologist and physical anthropologist, verification ethno historical information.

Bioarchaeology of Huari posters and abstracts

Abstract American Physical Anthropology Association Meeting 2014


Anne R. Titelbaum (University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix), Bebel Ibarra (Instituto de Estudios Huarinos, Peru), Stephan Naji (CNRS-UMR 5199 PACEA, Bordeaux, France)

Madelung’s deformity of the wrist is an uncommon growth disturbance affecting the ulnar side of the distal radial epiphysis. Usually bilateral, characteristics include an ulnar tilt of the epiphysis creating a v-shaped articulation for the carpus, a dorsal and radial curvature of the radial shaft, an overall shortening of the radius, and a posteriorly dislocated distal ulna. Predominantly seen in females, the disorder can occur in both sexes, but is usually more severely expressed in females. While Madelung’s deformity can be isolated in its occurrence, co-occurrence with shortened tibiae relative to the femora may suggest dyschondrosteosis (Léri-Weill syndrome), a type of dwarfism characterized by mesomelic shortening.

Chullpa 26, one of 35 Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1250) comingled tombs at the highland site of Marcajirca, Peru yielded four radii and two ulnae that demonstrate morphologies consistent with Madelung’s deformity. The six bones represent the bilateral congenital occurrence of the defect in two adults. The severity of the defect differs between the two pairs, and considering size and robusticity, it is likely that the difference reflects female and male expression of the condition. This deformity was not observed among the other examined adult radii (n=197) and ulnae (n=186) that were excavated from this and five other tombs (adult MNI=103). Three comparatively short tibiae were also recovered from Chullpa 26, which may suggest that these are cases of dyschondrosteosis. In addition to being rarely reported in paleopathology, these cases offer insight into the use of Late Intermediate Period chullpas in Ancash.

Paleo-Pathology Association Meeting 2014

Sacral Facet Asymmetry: Preliminary Interpretations from a Late Intermediate Period Site, Ancash, Peru
Victoria Zieger, Anne R. Titelbaum, Bebel Ibarra

Related to handedness, bilateral asymmetry in the human skeleton is associated with differential mechanical loading. While this topic has received much attention, comparatively little research has examined the asymmetry of the sacrum. The present study investigates the asymmetry of sacral facets among 43 comingled sacra excavated from the Late Intermediate Period highland site of Marcajirca, Ancash, Peru (ca. AD 1250), of which 40 exhibited asymmetric facet angles. Related to movement of the back, sacral facet angles permit flexion, extension, and lateral flexion, but they limit rotational movement. As previous studies have found that right-handed individuals tend to demonstrate left lower limb dominance, it was predicted that the angle of the left sacral facet would be more obtuse than that of the right, reflecting asymmetrical rotational movement. An original method was used to measure the right and left facet angles, and bilateral asymmetry was assessed with the formula: [(left side-right side)/right side] * 100. Forty sacra (93%) demonstrate asymmetric sacral angles. While 53.49% of the left facet angles are more obtuse than the right, this asymmetry was not statistically significant. The results suggest that while sacral facet angles hold potential for asymmetry studies, future research should consider potential confounds such as age, sex, as well as individual behavior.

Midwest Bioarcheology & Forensic Anthropology Association 2013
 Using GIS to Visualize External Taphonomic Features on Human Remains Inside Chullpas: Marcajirca, Peru
By Samantha Lininger

This study explored taphonomic factors that contribute to the preservation of human skeletal remains from chullpas, the above ground tombs used in some ancient Andean populations. This study examines chullpa burials from the Late Intermediate Period (1200-1532 AD) site of Marcajirca in Peru, where burials had been disturbed, with commingling. This study incorporates approximately forty samples from the first hand-drawn map layer of bones of three different chullpas. Layers inside each chullpa, which were drawn and analyzed by Geographic Information System(GIS), the process of visualizing and understand patterns. Remains were examined for three taphonomic factors: weathering stages, plant pigmentation, and root presence. GIS was utilized to identify taphonomic patterns in chullpas to study the effect taphonomy has on the preservation of remains. It was hypothesized that each chullpa would show similar taphonomic frequencies because preservation of the similar mortuary pattern would lead to similar taphonomic processes. Among 35-40 bone samples analyzed from each chullpa, plant pigment was more prevalent in one chullpa with 68% of pigment present versus 16% and 7% in the other two. This was also the case with 12% presence for root occurrence in one chullpa versus 41% and 59 % in the other two. Weathering was scored 0-5, 5 being most severe. The most prevalent was stage 3, 40% and 46% being the most prevalent in two and the other with 20%. Comparisons from each chullpa indicate that the frequencies are not similar. GIS will help researchers document taphonomy on human remains in a faster,simpler way. 

Abstract American Physical Anthropology Association Meeting 2013


Anne R. Titelbaum (University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix), Bebel Ibarra (Instituto de Estudios Huarinos, Peru), Stephen Naji (CNRS-UMR 5199 PACEA, Bordeaux, France), Óscar Loyola Azàldegui (Equipo Peruano de Antropología Forense, Peru), Katya Valladares (Equipo Peruano de Antropología Forense, Peru), and Madeline Zhu (Harvard University).

The distribution and pattern of fractures was examined among the disarticulated human skeletal remains of at least 90 adult individuals excavated from 4 chullpas (tombs) at the Late Intermediate (AD 1040-1640) site of Marcajirca, Department of Ancash, Peru. At an elevation of 3800 m, the site is situated on the top of a steep-sided, rocky mountain slope, and it was predicted that fractures would be typical of falling injuries. Results show that long bone fracture frequency was low (1.4%), with injuries being slightly more common among upper limb bones (1.8%) than the lower limb (1.2%) and shoulder girdle (1.3%). The radius was the most commonly fractured long bone (3%) followed by the tibia (2.5%). In contrast, of 24 adult crania, 11 demonstrated fractures (45.8%), with the frontal bone being most frequently affected, followed by the nasal and parietal bones. While the majority of healed postcranial trauma does appear to be related to the challenging physical environment, both healed and unhealed craniofacial trauma suggests the presence of interpersonal violence. The possibility for aggression may explain the precarious location of Marcajirca and the positioning of walls on the lateral borders of the site.

Abstract American Physical Anthropology Association Meeting 2011

First Peruvian Christian mummies? A bio-archaeological analysis of the transitional funerary site of Marcajirca – 1040 – 1640 AD.  North Highland of Peru

S.Naji1 and B. Ibarra2.
1: École Pratique des Hautes Études - France, 2: Instituto de Estudios Huarinos - Peru.

Marcajirca is a prehispanic site with a long occupation which lasted between 1040 – 1640 A.D. and with very significant funerary traditions. It is located around 600 km northeast of Lima, Peru’s capital in the state of Ancash. The site is being explored since 2007 as a part of bio-archaeological field school.

On-going excavations indicate that mortuary rites were traditionally implemented according to local rituals. Mummified bodies tied with ropes in fetal position and wrapped in blankets (bundles) were placed in either caves or burial houses (chullpas).

In accordance with historic documents or chronicles from XVI century, when the Extirpation of Idolatries was imposed, all the Indian population had to adopt Christian customs for burying their dead, that meant burying only in cemetery areas assigned by the conquerors and with Christian symbols. These customs were in contradiction with the millenarian tradition of old Peruvians who used to bury their dead in caves or tombs where they could visit the dead afterwards in order to perform rituals and offerings for them. Old custom burials took place in archaeological places. Thus, in the beginning of the colonial times, the new tradition forced old Peruvians to bury their dead not in caves or tombs but rather underground making it more difficult for the Spanish officials to discover the burials.

Recent discovery of two large burial pits shed light on potential transitional practices.

Initial assessment by local archaeologists concluded that these pits were ossuaries. However 14C dating of the bones placed both pits in the timing around the arrival of Christians (1480- 1640 AD). In addition, contextual analysis following bio-archaeological excavation procedures revealed that the bones were in fact individual mummies sequentially buried in the earth.

The pits are so far interpreted as local adaptation (hidden?) to Christian inhumation rites. Despite local ancestral prohibition of body inhumation, local “priests” managed to adapt their rituals in order to satisfy Christian standards of burial and retain the tradition of custom body treatment.

Despite regular looting of the mummies and disruptions of the site by local farmers, careful excavations by field anthropologists and contextual approach of the burials is strongly warranted to guarantee proper interpretation of the burial practices.

Paleo-Pathology Association Meeting 2011
Skull Fracture and Trepanation at Marcajirca, Callejón de Conchucos. Ancash, Peru
John W. Verano1, Mellisa Lund Valle2, Bebel Ibarra3

Studies of large collections of trepanned skulls from the central and southern highlands of Peru have demonstrated that trepanation was a common method of treating skull fractures in some prehispanic Andean cultures. Similar data have emerged more recently from the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru. An important geographic region lying between Chachapoyas and the central highlands, is the Callejón de Conchucos and this is evident because the Royal Inka road passes through the area. While this region has been the focus of extensive archaeological investigation, there has been only limited bioarchaeological research until recently. In this paper we present preliminary results of bioarchaeological investigations now being conducted at the site of Marcajirca, a large mortuary complex located at 3800 meters on the eastern side of the Cordillera Blanca. Numerous chullpas (funerary structures) and burial caves dating from the Late Intermediate Period through the Early Colonial Period (c. AD 1000-1600) are found throughout the site. A large sample of human skeletal material has been recovered, and is currently being analyzed from various perspectives. In this paper we present the preliminary results of a study of skull fracture and trepanation at Marcajirca, based on the analysis of seventeen crania with fractures and seven crania with trepanations. We present data on fracture frequency, location and healing, and examples of trepanations associated with skull fracture.

Paleo-Pathology Association Meeting 2011
Perspectiva Bio-Arqueológica en el  Estudio de los Ancestros en la Sierra de Huari - Ancash

 Bebel Ibarra Asencios

El proyecto Arqueológico Huari-Ancash, desde 1997 viene trabajando en la provincia de Huari, región de Ancash, y desde el año 2007 comenzó un programa de Bio-arqueología, que involucra el estudio y análisis in situ de los restos óseos del sitio de Marcajirca, el cual estuvo ocupado según los fechados entre 1020 – 1640 D.C, y pertenece a lo que fue el grupo étnico de los Huaris. Marcajirca alberga alrededor de 36 chullpas o tumbas y más de 30 cuevas funerarias.

El enfoque al estudio de los ancestros está siendo abordado desde la perspectiva de la reocupación y reutilización de las estructuras funerarias (tumbas – chullpas – y cuevas) y la identificación de rituales asociados o vinculados a ellos.

Marcajirca, se halla ubicado en el distrito de Cajay-Masín, en la provincia de Huari, Departamento de Ancash a 3800 msnm. Cubre un área aproximada de 40 hectáreas, y ocupa toda la cumbre de un cerro que lleva el mismo nombre. El sitio presenta tres sectores bien diferenciados a los que hemos denominado residencial, público y funerario. En el sector residencial hay alrededor de 50 viviendas, la mayoría de ellas de planta circular, el sector público formado principalmente por el anfiteatro una gran estructura de aproximadamente 40 m de diámetro y un desnivel de 5 m, es en este denivel donde se construyó una serie de graderías, dándole la forma de un tazón en este sector además del anfiteatro existe otra estructura a la que hemos llamado el torreón, el cual tiene aproximadamente 5 m. de diámetro y rodeado por una banqueta. El sector funerario es el sector central, en este hemos podido identificar alrededor de 30 chullpas y 20 cuevas. El resto de las chullpas y las cuevas se encuentran fuera de este sector.

Las estructuras funerarias han sido divididas en dos grandes grupos, chullpas y cuevas funerarias. El estudio de la tipología de las chullpas nos muestra que la planta cuadrada es la predominante, el tamaño de ellas varía entre 1.2 m a 3m de lado. El acceso generalmente es reducido (40 x 50 cm), lo que sugiere que era el espacio suficiente para colocar un cuerpo. El techo es predominantemente cónico tipo falsa bóveda, existiendo también techos planos. La orientación del acceso no es consistente, ya que las chullpas tienen acceso viendo al norte, este, oeste y sur. Por otro lado las cuevas funerarias obedecen a factores topográficos, ya que la mayoría de ellas se hallan bajo grandes rocas, a las cuales se le han adosado un muro de piedra para poder delimitar un acceso, este acceso tiene las mismas proporciones que en las chullpas. También tenemos la presencia de tumbas intrusivas que datan de los tiempos de la colonia, las cuales resaltan el valor sagrado y ancestral que tuvo Marcajirca para los pueblos ya reducidos durante el siglo XVII.

Los trabajos de Bioarqueología en Marcajirca significaron resolver varios problemas metodológicos y logísticos. 1). El 100% de las estructuras sean chullpas o cuevas estaban disturbadas, los restos óseos se hallan en forma de conglomerados, existiendo muy pocos restos articulados. 2). El espacio reducido al interior de las tumbas sumado a la visibilidad muy reducida y al hecho de no pisar los restos óseos durante el registro y recuperación. Para superar esto se usa linternas y se coloca una serie tablas a manera de andamios. 3). Por una cuestión moral del proyecto y respeto a las pobladores actuales, decidimos no llevarnos todos los Huesos a un laboratorio en la ciudad, por lo que se decidió montar laboratorios móviles para exámenes rápidos (medidas, determinación de edad, sexo y estatura), aquellos restos que presentaba una patología si es llevado al laboratorio en Huari para exámenes más minuciosos, estos constituyen una mínima cantidad. 4). Identificar los rituales de manera arqueológica requirió de una estrategia de excavación que nos permitiera recuperar evidencia de éstos, para lo cual se procedió a hacer excavaciones en la parte frontal de las chullpas, bajo la premisa si alguna ofrenda fue hecha ésta debió realizarse frente a las chullpas, esta estrategia nos ha permitido identificar huellas de quema y recuperar objetos no domésticos en varias chullpas. 5). Determinar la cronología de las chullpas y cuevas con la de los individuos sepultados, para esto se decidió primero datar elementos orgánicos que se hayan usado en la construcción de la chullpas como restos de las vigas de madera o paja usada en el enlucimiento de las chullpas y de esta manera tener la fecha de construcción de la chullpa, luego se procedió a datar a los individuos, para ellos se usamos los dientes. Se tomó varios ejemplos de distintos individuos.

Además de la reocupación de tumbas, huellas de violencia han podido ser identificado en varios cráneos, así como una gran cantidad de cráneos deformados, estas deformaciones son variadas, existiendo del tipo anular recto, anular oblicuo y bilobular.

El tipo anular oblicuo en la Cueva 19 es un tipo que corresponde sólo a individuos femeninos, podría significar una tipo de deformación cultural exclusiva de mujeres. También se han identificado deformaciones anular recto para mujeres pero en mínima cantidad, pero no deformación anular oblicua para varones. 

Las trepanaciones en los ejemplares que las presentan están divididas en dos grupos trepanaciones usando la técnica del raspado y trepanaciones usando la técnica de cortes rectos, en la mayoría de los casos la sanación ocurrió. El fechado más antiguo para una trepanación en Marcajirca es de 1040 D.C. mientras que el más tardío es de 1440-1640 D.C. 

A la fecha se ha excavado 06 cuevas funerarias y 08 chullpas o tumbas y 02 tumbas intrusivas identificándose alrededor de 440 individuos, todas las chullpas muestran haber sido utilizados por largos períodos de tiempo. En el caso de las cuevas, los fechados radiocarbónicos han determinado que hay individuos que fueron sepultados con 200 años de diferencia. 

Los estudios en Marcajirca esperan realizarse en un 100% de las cuevas y chullpas para poder datos sólidos sobre las costumbres funerarias de los antiguos Huarinos, por el momento las investigaciones van mostrando un uso contemporáneo entre cuevas y chullpas, no se ha podido determinar si esto significa status, pero creemos que las cuevas fueron el lugar donde los individuos de algunas chullpas fueron re-sepultados, ya que hemos encontrados muchos hueso largos atados con una especie de soguilla.

Abstract American Physical Anthropology Association Meeting 2009

Chullpas, caves, and biological affinity: a case study from Marcajirca, Peru.

C.M. Pink1, B. Ibarra Asencios2. 1Dept. of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, 2Instituto Estudios Huarinos, Peru.

            Chullpas and caves are mortuary contexts frequently used in the north-central highlands of Peru during the Late Intermediate Period (LIP) (AD 1000-1476). One interpretation of their function has been that specific structures were utilized by kin groups or individuals with a shared ethnic identity. The tradition of ancestor veneration documented in Andean cultures and supported by archaeological evidence tends to support this interpretation. The Project Arqueologico Huari- Ancash  tests the hypothesis that assemblages from separate chullpas and caves represent individuals of common ancestry.
Craniometric data was gathered during the summer of 2008 from skeletal remains during a pilot project at the Marcajirca site in the Huari Province of Peru. Individuals were sampled from two chullpas and three caves dating to the LIP. Only adults with no evidence of cranial modification were included in this study. A multivariate distance analysis was employed to assess possible biological affinity between individuals. Results from the analysis interpreted in a bioarchaeological framework inform on important questions of mortuary ritual practices and ethnic identity in prehistoric highland Andean societies.
            The travel to recover data into the project was supported in part by the McClure scholarship for international study and the William M. Bass Endowment.     

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Skull Trepanations

Skull with Trepanation are very common at Marcajirca, being possible to identify two types or techniques: Linear Cutting and Scraping. The trace of healing suggest that many of individual survive after this surgery. 
In Marcajirca trepanation were practice during long time ca AD 1040 - 1640.  It is present in individual with cranial modification around the site. Individuals with and without cranial modification from same cave (C7) ca AD 1260 show same type of trepanation (scraping).

Trepanation type Linear Cutting 

Trepanation Scraping type

Trepanation Linear Cutting

Trepanation Scraping type

Trepanation Scraping Type

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cranial Modification in Marcajirca

In Marcajirca have been identified two types of Cranial Modification: Annular Oblique and Annular Recto. The Chronology for these modification in this site is between  AD. 1040 - 1350.
Type Annular Oblique 

Type Annular Oblique 
Type Annular Oblique
This skull as picture before (49-C19-A2-1072), were found in the same cave C19. The dates for both are similar AD 1250/1260 - 1310/1330 and are candidates to run DNA analysis. 

Type Annular Oblique 

Type Annular Oblique 

Type Annular Oblique 
 Apparently most of the skulls in Cave 19 (C19) with this type of modification belong to Females

Type Annular Oblique 

The Bioarchaeology of Heath and social organization at Marcajirca (Thesis)

The Bioarchaeology of Heath and social organization at Marcajirca (Thesis)

Osteological Analysis Season 2010