A brief look at Nasca trophy head iconography as it relates to ecological and socio-political factors




Kornegay, Lauren Ashley

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The purpose of this study is to analyze Nasca trophy head iconography in a sample of 130 ceramic vessels to identify variation through time and ascertain whether that variation is due to changes in ecological and/or socio-political pressures. In this analysis it is suggested that the drought, political collapse of Cahuachi, and the invasion of the Wari led to the iconographic changes in the sample of ceramics analyzed here. Traditional ceramic analysis methods were employed, including taking of vessel measurements, description and categorization of iconography and photography. Changes in the frequencies between phases were assessed through cross tabulation, graphs and pie charts. The statistical significance of relationships between phases, trophy head type, object forms, etc. were found through Chi-Square tests. The objects that comprise this sample were taken from the National Museum of the American Indian and the Putnam Museum. The results of the analysis show that Nasca trophy head iconography was impacted by ecological and socio-political factors. The increase in trophy heads per vessel, coupled with the abstraction and elongation of trophy head forms are the direct result of the drought and subsequent collapse of Cahuachi in Nasca Phase 5. Additionally, in Nasca Phases 6-8 the influence of the Wari invasion can be seen in the use of geometric shapes and more complex trophy head forms.


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Archaeology, Ceramics, Iconography, Nasca, Peru, Trophy Heads