Community identity and social diversity on the central Peruvian coast: a bioarchaeological investigation of Ychsma diet, mobility, and mortuary practices (c. AD 900-1470)

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This dissertation focuses on the diversity inherent to the process of social community construction. Building upon previous archaeological and bioarchaeological studies of community identities, the current project emphasizes the need

This dissertation focuses on the diversity inherent to the process of social community construction. Building upon previous archaeological and bioarchaeological studies of community identities, the current project emphasizes the need for consideration of the impact of diversity on community identity formation in the past and illustrates the utility of a bioarchaeological approach for undertaking this task. Three specific aspects of community formation are addressed: (1) the relationship between symbolic community boundaries and geographic space, (2) the influence of diverse discourses of intra-community sub-groups on community formation, and (3) the negotiation of community boundaries by outsiders. To investigate these aspects of community construction in the past, dietary practices and mortuary rituals of the Late Intermediate Period (c. AD 900-1470) Ychsma society of the central Peruvian coast are examined as a case study. Previous anthropological and sociological studies demonstrate that diet and burial customs are common mechanisms used in processes of group identification around the world, including the Andes. In the current study, analyses of materials from Armatambo and Rinconada Alta in the Rimac Valley are used to examine the ways in which isotopic and dental indicators of diet and archaeological contextual indicators of mortuary rituals correspond with or crosscut spatial burial patterns and additional groups based on sex, age at death, and biogeochemically reconstructed residential origins. Observed patterns are interpreted using a theoretical framework that incorporates sociocultural theory of identity with pre-Columbian Andean ideology of the body, self, and social environment. Results reveal differences in large-scale trends in diet and mortuary practices associated with burial at each site that are interpreted as evidence of symbolic community boundaries between sites. Complexities within larger trends reveal evidence of internal diversity as well as fluidity across community boundaries. Specifically, evidence is presented for intra-community dietary differences, intra-community differences associated with age and sex, and finally evidence of external relationships. This consideration of diversity in community identity construction is concluded to profoundly refine current understandings of Ychsma social interactions. Consequently, this study demonstrates empirical investigation of social diversity is necessary for understanding the complex nature of the social construction of communities in the past.