Master of Arts
This research aims to explore the lifeways of an underrepresented subgroup of females while reducing the use of destructive methods in bioarchaeology. The excavation of Farfán on the North Coast of Peru revealed a rare aqlla cemetery from the Late Horizon (1470-1532 A.D.). The aqlla was an Inca religious institution where young females were sequestered to brew chicha and weave in their aqllawasi. According to ethnohistorical sources, these “Chosen Women” were expected to represent a homogenous and advantaged subset of the population. This hypothesis is assessed by comparing their dental lesions to the general population using macroscopy, micro-CT, and histology. The dental analysis found similar caries, calculus, and wear and more linear enamel hypoplasia and interglobular dentin in the aqlla suggesting these females were not as described in ethnohistorical documents. The multi-modal approach supports micro-CT as a non-destructive imaging technique providing novel information to complement macroscopy and histology.
Summary for Lay Audience
This research generates bioarchaeological evidence to a subgroup of Inca females underrepresented in the literature which is particularly important considering the biased and incomplete portrait of these females in ethnohistorical accounts. During the Late Horizon period (1470-1532 A.D.), the Inca created the aqlla institution [pronounced “akya”] where females were selected before puberty to weave, cook, and brew chicha, a beverage from fermented maize for ceremonial and economical purposes. The information known about these “Chosen Women” relies on a group of ethnohistorical documents called the Spanish Chronicles. According to these documents, these females are expected to represent a homogenous and advantaged subset of the population. This hypothesis can be assessed by comparing their dental lesions, physiological stress, and diet to individuals from the general population. The analysis for this research on 45 teeth from 32 individuals buried at Farfán on the North Coast of Peru aims to examine the veracity of the Spanish Chronicles regarding the aqlla and promotes the use of non-invasive and non-destructive methods to analyse teeth. Teeth are particularly interesting to investigate past populations since they can record information on diet, mobility, disease, and childhood stress. Cavities and dental wear were assessed here to yield information about maize consumption while developmental defects on the outer and inner surface of the tooth provided information about episodes of illness and malnutrition during childhood. More specifically, cavities, dental wear, and developmental defects (e.g. linear enamel hypoplasia and interglobular dentin) were recorded through macroscopy, histological analysis (study of tissue with microscopy), and a non-invasive technique called micro-computed tomography (micro-CT). The latter technology, particularly important with the increasing concern about destructive analysis, relies on X-rays to reconstruct a virtual 3D volume of the tooth that can be manipulated to be cut through and observed from different angle. The detailed analysis suggest that these females experienced slightly fewer cavities and more episodes of childhood illness than the general population from this site. Thus, dental evidence disagrees with the description of these females in the Spanish Chronicles. The multi-modal approach supports micro-CT as a non-destructive imaging technique providing novel information to complement macroscopy and histology.
Roberge, Émy, "Dental Health in the Aqllakuna from Farfán (Peru): A New Perspective on an Inca Female Institution (ca. 1470-1532 A.D.) Using Micro-CT and Histological Analysis" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8551.
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