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‘Violent Encounters in Andes Warfare, Trophy-taking, and Sacrifice’

Rachel Witt

JOHNSON CITY (June 25, 2013) – “Violent Encounters in Andes Warfare, Trophy-taking, and Sacrifice” is the topic of a lecture this Saturday, June 29, at noon at the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center at the Gray Fossil Site.

Guests are invited to bring their lunch to this free public event, which is part of the ongoing Lunchtime Lecture Series hosted by the museum and sponsored by the ETSU Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology.

The talk will be given by bioarchaeologist Rachel Witt, who analyzes human skeletal remains to uncover the experiences of pre-colonial Andean populations in South America.  Her research investigates how the practices of independent communities versus those of imperial states affected exposure to violence.  She also examines the funerary practices of the north-central highlands of Peru.

Witt’s talk will deal with the archaeological study of these human skeletal remains, known as bioarchaeology, and its usefulness in identifying and interpreting conflict within an ancient society.

“Prior to Spanish contact, all Andean populations were illiterate and produced no written documents, so bioarchaeology is crucial in understanding how acts of violence influenced the creation, expansion and dissolution of pre-contact societies,” Witt said.  “Studying wound morphology, location and frequency allows scientists to infer types of conflict, such as warfare, ritualized violence or human sacrifice.  Previous studies demonstrate that environmental disasters, territorial expansion and social domination also provoked violent encounters in the Andes.”

For the last three years, Witt has worked with several projects in Peru, including the Ayacucho Bioarchaeology Project with La Universidad Nacional de San Cristóbal de Huamanga, Proyecto Bionarqueológico Coporaque, and PIARA (Proyecto de Investigaticón Arqueológico Regional Ancash).  She earned her bachelor of arts degree in anthropology and history of art from Vanderbilt University and is currently a curatorial assistant at the Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site.

The museum’s summer hours are Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; the museum will be closed July 4 in observance of the Independence Day holiday.  For more information or special assistance for those with disabilities, call 1-866-202-6223, or visit www.etsu.edu/naturalhistorymuseum for dates and times of future lectures.