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A 9,000 year-old case of human decapitation has been found in the rock shelter of Lapa do Santo in Brazil, according to a study published September 23, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by André Strauss from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany and colleagues.
An archaeological site called Lapa do Santo, located in east-central Brazil, contains evidence of human occupation dating back to ~12,000 years ago. In 2007, researchers found fragments of a buried body, Burial 26, including a cranium, jaw, the first six cervical vertebrae, and two severed hands at the site. They dated the remains back to ~9,000 years ago using accelerator mass spectrometry. The researchers found amputated hands laid over the face of the skull arranged opposite each other and observed v-shaped cut marks on the jaw and sixth cervical vertebra.
Based on strontium analysis comparing Burial 26's isotopic signature to other specimens from Lapa do Santo, the researchers suggest Burial 26 was likely a local member of the group. Additionally, the presentation of the remains, lead the authors to think that this was likely a ritualized decapitation instead of trophy-taking. If this is the case, these remains may demonstrate sophisticated mortuary rituals among hunter-gatherers in the Americas during this time period. The authors think this may be the oldest case of decapitation found in the New Word, leading to a re-evaluation of the previous interpretations of this practice, particularly with regards to its origins and geographic dispersion.
Few Amerindian habits impressed the European colonizers more than the taking and displaying of human body parts, especially when decapitation was involved . Although disputed by some authors , it has become widely accepted that decapitation was common among Native Americans across the entire continent and the archaeological evidence confirms that the practice has deep chronological roots . In South America, the oldest decapitation is reported for the Andean region and dates to ca. 3000 BP at the site of Asia 1, Peru. Since all other South American archaeological cases occur in the Andes (e.g., Nazca, Moche, Wari, Tiwanaco) it was assumed that decapitation was an Andean phenomenon in both its origins and in its most unambiguous expression. In the present contribution we review the available evidence on decapitation in South America and report the discovery in east-central Brazil of a case of human decapitation directly dated to 9127–9438 cal BP (all chronological ranges reported here are based on a 95.4% interval). Excavated at the Lapa do Santo rock shelter in Lagoa Santa, Central Brazil, this is the oldest case of decapitation found in the New World, leading to a re-evaluation of the previous interpretations of this practice, particularly with regards to its origins and geographic dispersion.
Disembodied heads and decapitation in South America
In South America, the practice of decapitation is reported in both the ethnographic and archaeological literature. Tupinamba groups from coastal Brazil, famous for their rituals, including exo-cannibalism , used to collect body parts, including heads, as war trophies . The Arara Indians, in the Brazilian Amazon, performed the Ieipari ceremony in which the cranium of the defeated enemy, also used as a musical instrument, was displayed on the top of a pole . Among the Uru-Uru Chipayas, in Bolivia, skulls were used as part of a syncretic Christian liturgy . Among the Inca, decapitation was a common means of establishing and reinforcing positions of status and power. The head of important enemies were turned into trophies and the skulls into drinking jars in a clear message of military supremacy . However, among the ethnographic examples in which decapitation was prominent, the trophy heads made by the Munduruku and Jivaros are the most famous.
The Munduruku Indians from the Tapajós River in northern Brazil used to behead the defeated enemy immediately after death [9–16]. The spine was sectioned near the foramen magnum and the head removed. The internal muscles, brain, eyes and tongue were then removed  and the head mummified through immersion in hot oil and subsequent smoking . The trophy would be brought to the village and designated as the focus of a series of ceremonies over several years. At first, the ritual involved the cultural appropriation of the trophy by adding ornaments and tattoos to it. Subsequently, as the power of the head faded away, the skin and the ornaments were removed. Finally, the dentition was extracted from the skull and attached to a cotton belt that would remain with the owner of the head indefinitely, while the skull itself would be left in some corner of his habitation to be forgotten .
originally posted by: sycomix
a reply to: punkinworks10
That is an interesting read, seems like a lot of trouble to go to though, must have been messy work to say the least. S&F