San Pedro de Alcantara

Peruvian anthropology in Portugal

Mission of Peruvian physical anthropologist Judith Vivar Anaya in Lisbon, June 1999.

Twelve years after initial talks held in Lima in 1987, the Peruvian physical anthropologist Dr Judith Vivar Anaya, professor at Universidad Católica, Lima, undertook in Portugal the study the skeleton remains of the dead from Spanish man-of-war San Pedro de Alcantara (1786) during a three weeks' mission in the Lisbon National Museum of Archaeology.

excavation of shipwreck graves in PenicheThis study, realized at the invitation of Maria Luisa Pinheiro Blot, archaeologist in charge of the land excavations of the skeleton remains from the shipwreck of the year 1786 in Peniche, Portugal, was part of a long range archaeological project started on land, next to the sea, in 1985.

The successive excavation campaigns realized since then with the sponsorship of several Portuguese institutions including the National Museum of Archaeology and the institutes in charge of Monuments and Archaeology (IPPAR, IPA) led to the discovery of the bodies of 29 victims from the 1786 marine accident. The last campaign on land was undertaken in 1996 and led the archaeologist in charge to apply for a sponsorship of a mission by J.Vivar Anaya to Lisbon. The mission was accepted by IPA (Portuguese Institute of Archaeology) in 1998 as part of the national plan for archaeological research by this Institute, a branch of the Portuguese ministry of Culture. In late springs 1999, Universidad Catolica rectorate in Lima authorized a three weeks mission to Lisbon by the Peruvian anthropologist. The Peruvian embassy in Lisbon provided support for the administrative organisation of the mission.

Judith VivarThe first results of the mission will be part of a paper by J.Vivar Anaya and M.L.Pinheiro Blot at the 3rd Congress of Iberian Archaeology in late September in Vila Real de Tras os Montes, Portugal.

At this stage however, J. Vivar Anaya's mission has allowed investigation to jump one major step forward since three Peruvian individuals have been isolated among the dead from San Pedro de Alcantara' shipwreck in Peniche, Portugal.

Some of the specificities of the anatomy of the Peruvian people from the Andes and coastal areas have been commented by J. Vivar Anaya during her conference held at Lisbon National Museum of Archaeology on the past 23d of June (1999).

In the process, Dr Vivar Anaya, talking to a public mostly unaware of the history of archaeology in Peru, introduced the audience to the main lines of the history of the discipline in Peru, and of its links with physical anthropology.

The medical focus on physical anthropology in Peru was marked in 1969 by an increasing interest towards "man in height" (hombre en altura) and related studies (su capacidad vital, oxigenacion).

One of the promotors of such studies was Dr Sergio Quevedo Aragon, professor at San Antonio Universidad, Cuzco, who studied in the Cuzco Sacred Valley (Valle sagrado). His investigations have been known worldwide. S. Quevedo Aragon received an award from the Russian Academy of Sciences for his research on the Peruvian campesino (peasant) and high-altitude rural work conditions in the Andes.

Similar studies have been undertaken later on in Lima, at San Marcos Universidad Nacional, in the "Instituto del Hombre de Altura", focusing this time on the central Peru area, Huancayo, closer to Lima. Among themes thus investigated were the problems of Andean people migrating to low altitude coastal areas and their specific health problems in this new physical environment.

Similar or related approaches were undertaken at Lima's Universidad Peruana by Dr Cayetano Heredia and at a research center directed by Dr Carlos Monge.

North-American NASA among other organisations expressed an interest in the results from such investigations related with human life at high altitude.

Another investigation, directed this time more specifically towards physical anthropology, was undertaken in the Puno area (SE Peru) near Bolivia by Dr Frisancho Pineda.

All those investigations were connected with live humans.

A different focus was given by archaeologists working in Peru, namely by Julio Tello, a pioneer of the field.

Tello was a doctor. He studied anthropology in the USA, and anthropology and ethnology in Germany. Furthermore he obtained a degree in biological sciences. He was one of the most important researchers in the field of archaeology and anthropology in Peru in the 1920s.

Before Tello, research in Peru had been done by foreign travellers who had a personal interest towards the Peruvian reality.

The whole movement was started by Max Uhle, in 1904, on the central coast of Peru. Uhle was a German and had been previously in Chile and Ecuador.

Uhle was the one who introduced stratigraphy in Peruvian archaeology. This technique allowed to establish for the first time a chronology in Peruvian archaeology, ranging from pre-hispanic Peru to the coming of the Spaniards. Uhle is considered for this reason as the father of archaeology in the country.

Mr. Uhle made pioneer field-work on the central coast of Peru. He excavated in the Chancay valley and in Chilca and discovered a ceramic culture to which he called "proto-Lima", which is white on red (blanco sobre rojo). Later on, Eduardo Lanning and Patterson named it "Miramar" and "Baños de Boza".

After Uhle, Patterson defined cultures from the period called Intermedio Temprano ("cultura de los maestros artesanos"). Patterson defined 9 periods within this Intermedio Temprano period). The first period within this proposed chronology corresponded to the one Max Uhle had found.

Antropological analysis of human remains started with Uhle's excavations at Pachacamac, Lima, in the Rimac valley, at huaca "Aramburu" and huaca "Juliana" in Miraflores. Uhle found cemeteries with individuals from an early period in an horizontal position; he recorded their position. Such recording proved to be important since the horizontal position was associated with the white on red culture (blanco sobre rojo or "Baño de Boza") found in the Boza valley.

Uhle published almost all of his work in German. Some of his publications have been recently translated to Spanish by Peruvian archaeologists and published in Peru during the last six months.

Alfredo Krueber, another German archaeologist, worked with Uhle at Huaca Maranga in the Rimac valley. Site nº15 at huaca Maranga was one of the sites excavated by Kroeber.This site confirmed previous results by Uhle related with the white on red (blanco sobre rojo) culture from the Intermedio Temprano period. At a depth of nearly five meters under ground level, Krueber found the remains of individuals laying in an horizontal position; different orientations (cubito ventral /cubito dorsal) were observed among the bodies. Ceramics associated with the bodies were blanco sobre rojo but Krueber described with accuracy some dolls (muñecas) made of cloth which were funerary gifts characteristic of this period. The bodies were found with their cloths, wrapped in a cloth and laying on a tarima; associated with the dolls (muñecas) were miniature ceramics, which were funerary gifts too. At huaca n°15 Kroeber only found one young individual among adults. Cloths were part of the archaeological material studied.

According to Kroeber, those individuals had not suffered cranean deformations; his remarks are the first osteological observations on human remains within an archaeological context in Peru.

According to Max Uhle, the Peruvian culture was derived from a centro-American nucleus, a thesis rejected by Tello who pointed towards an Andean origin, possibly from the forest area, via Chavin. From these two positions came two schools of thought, one known as "tellista" and the other one aligned on Max Uhle's thesis.

Tello excavated in many areas of Peru. Field-work from the period was marked by wide gathering of archaeological materials, living the study and interpretation of materials behind, anthropological investigation among the lot.

This situation changed with the coming into the field of Pedro Bbeis, one of the doctors who collaborated with Tello.

Born in Switzerland, Pedro Bbeis met with Tello at the Faculdad de Medicina where Tello was a professor. Tello invited the student and future doctor Pedro Bbeis to Cerro Sechin ruins (Casma, Ancas) in northern Peru.

Dr Pedro Bbeis, whose life changed from then on, is considered as a major scientific authority in Peru. He was a doctor, a pathologist and undertook, from the point of view of physical anthropology, the analysis of the human remains excavated by Tello. P.Bbeis led, among other institutions, the department of physical anthropology of the Museo de Antropologia e Arqueologia de Pueblo Libre, a museum created by Tello.

Working on materials excavated by Tello, Bbeis will thus study the osteological remains of pre-Hispanic men who lived in the Lima coastal area. Bbeis is the author of two books on cultural osteology. He investigated pre-Hispanic craneal deformations, pre-Hispanic traumatisms, trepanations and pathology. Bbeis, who died a decade ago, is considered as one of the pioneers, a prolific researcher from Tello's time.

Nowadays, more focus is given to physical anthropology within Peruvian archaeology due to the constant flow of discoveries of cemeteries exposed while excavating monuments and poblados.

What is at the core of the process if the knowledge not only of the material culture but of the very men who generated such culture.

For this reason, the Riva Aguero Institute, a department of Lima Universidad Católica, started studying human remains brought to light by the department of archaeology of the same university.

The aim is to explore the paleodemography of ancient Peruvian communities through the detailed survey of groups from 80 to 400 individuals excavated in cemeteries and thus study the sex and age variables, health situation, food habits, light sicknesses or pathologies, oral health (teeth), all this depending on the conditions of conservation, the so-called "cualidad ósea" of the osteological remains.

skeleton in chains, presumably Inka prisonerThis situation faces difficulties related with the scarcity of funds available for research and a lack of interdisciplinary criteria. As a result, physical anthropological research has not received in to-day Peru the attention given in countries like the USA or Mexico.

Judith Vivar Anaya's conference in Lisbon on the past June 23rd helped to realize how physical anthropology is, with other tools, a powerful vector for voyaging into time. The Peruvian features found in three of the bodies from the dead of the San Pedro de Alcantara proved to be crucial testimonies of past burial practices of ethnic differentiation, a reality throwing the Lisbon' audience of last June 23rd two centuries back in time.

X24, the man found during the 1994 campaign, thrown with his face to the ground, was a south-American prisoner, one of the three Peruvian identified by J.Vivar Anaya.

But who was he?

Jean-Yves Blot, October 1999

The notes above were recorded from public and previous talks held by Dr J.Vivar Anaya in Lisbon. The author of this report bears full responsibility for possible misspells or inaccuracies in the text above.

Pre-Hispanic ceramic from the Chimu culture

cerâmica pré-hispânica da cultura Chimu

This particular vase was gathered in Peru in the early 1780 by French botanist and doctor Joseph Dombey who was on a joint mission with Spanish botanists Hipolito Ruiz and José Pavon. This collection is now preserved in Musée de l'Homme, Paris. The drawing is made by Maria Luisa Pinheiro Blot.

In 1784 Ruiz and Pavon sent similar materials on board San Pedro de Alcantara in 53 wooden reinforced boxes. Sherds of this Chimu pottery were found on the wrecksite in 1988.

Related texts

Projet San Pedro de Alcantara, Copyright © Jean-Yves Blot, Peniche, Portugal. 
Conception: Francisco Oliveira , Ocidente - Centro de Estudos de História e Etnografia Marítimas. Rev apr '10

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