Patterns of camelid sacrifice at the site of Pachacamac, Peruvian Central Coast, during the Late Intermediate Period (AD1000–1470): Perspectives from funerary archaeoentomology

Publication date: February 2020

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 114

Author(s): Giorgia Giordani, Céline Erauw, Peter A. Eeckhout, Lawrence S. Owens, Stefano Vanin


Funerary archaeoentomology entails the study of insects from archaeological contexts, in order to examine funerary practices, thanatology and hygiene/sanitation in ancient populations. However, while insects from human mummies have been widely studied, there is a limited literature dealing with archaeoentomology of animal sacrifices.

Andean camelid sacrifices are common in ritual contexts, as funerary or foundation offerings. The current paper addresses camelid remains recovered from the archaeological site of Pachacamac, during the 2016 excavation season. The insect fauna was assessed in order to determine the social context of the remains, and the manner in which the camelids were utilised. The carcasses yielded remains pertaining to Diptera and Coleoptera. The presence of Cochliomyia macellaria (Diptera, Calliphoridae), Sarcophaga sp. (Diptera, Sarcophagidae) and Synthesiomyia nudiseta (Diptera, Muscidae) suggest an initial colonisation in the open, while other species typical of later phases of the colonisation – including Hydrotaea aenescens (Diptera, Muscidae) and members of the family Phoridae – suggest that the carcasses were subsequently buried. Despite the evident importance of camelids to Andean populations, both historically and archaeologically, this is the first time that entomology has been used to examine animal sacrifice methods in this area, and comprises a watershed in the development of multidisciplinary approaches to sacrificial rites in ancient Peru.