"State-Sanctioned Violence in the Prehispanic Andes"
Tiffiny A. Tung
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University


Ancient expansionist states deployed myriad strategies for incorporating and consolidating diverse groups within their domains, including the threat or use of violence. Skeletal and artifactual remains from the Wari site of Conchopata suggests how violence was ideologically projected and enacted in the Wari state (AD 600 - 1000). Through detailed bioarchaeological analysis of 31 Wari trophy heads (disembodied heads that are modified for display), I suggest that the Wari state sanctioned the taking of prisoners from distant locales and oversaw the standardized preparation of their heads as trophies. Trophy head victims of non-local origin may have derived from groups perceived and constructed as "other" and through a standardized, state-prescribed mutilation and transformation of these bodies, their otherness may have been reified in the sanctity of Wari ritual spaces. Additionally, iconography on state-produced ceramic urns found in association with these trophy heads depicts bound prisoners and trophy heads under the control of Wari supernatural beings, undergirding the notion that the Wari state was intimately involved in the production and performance of violence.