Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Andrew Nelson


The purpose of this study is to test research questions about the development of violence on the Peruvian central coast during the pre-Hispanic and Early Colonial times. This is the first study to provide a diachronic analysis of violence on the central coast. One null hypothesis was tested and falsified: that there are no differences in the prevalence and pattern of trauma over time on the central coast of Peru. Two complementary questions were also addressed: 1) Is there a relation between sociopolitical changes, natural catastrophes, competition for resources and violence? and 2) How did violence affect specific segments of the population (males, females, subadults, and elite and non-elite persons)? More than 700 individuals from 14 different samples were analyzed, following classic bioarchaeological and forensic methods, and complemented with other variables such as cohort, most probable cause (malintent, accidental, occupational or unknown), lethality, minimum number of events, and social status. This research showed three factors that triggered violent episodes in the area: 1) the emergence of social inequalities/a warrior elite; 2) socio-political crises that were produced after the fall of a previous social order; and 3) the need to fight for resources, either during severe droughts or to control the resources of the middle valley region. Males (adults and adolescents), especially those dedicated to military activities or those from the lower status were more exposed to violence than the rest of the population. However, in times when violence rose, females were equally affected. The comparison of the findings from the central coast with other Andean regions showed that not all societies reacted in the same way when faced with similar socio-political /environmental challenges. The main contributions of this study are its long temporal perspective, and its emphasis on the importance of social complexity. These perspectives will enrich the anthropological debate around violence, providing a better understanding of the factors that can affect how violence can unfold in different situations and within different cultures.