From Tempe, Arizona, at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
In parts of what's now Peru, the Nasca and other prehistoric civilizations collected heads as spoils of war. Victorious warriors cut off the heads of vanquished enemies, drilled holes in their skulls to extract the brains, and modified these trophies for display and ritual use.
Trophy heads took a surprising twist, however, at a central Peruvian site inhabited by members of the Wari society from around A.D. 600 to 1000. A newly discovered stash of skull remains once used as trophy heads came mainly from children and from men too old to have served as warriors, says Tiffiny A. Tung of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Wari finds include pieces of trophy heads from at least 24 adults–most identifiable as male–and seven children, as well as 84 human-finger bones. All of these specimens had been intentionally burned and were found in two st