Incas ‘Cut off Heads as Trophies’

Experts working at an ancient Inca archaeological site claim three skulls discovered in a ceremonial vessel prove the civilisation cut off the heads of their enemies. The skulls were found by a Peruvian team digging at the ancient ceremonial centre of Qowicarana Ridge, just north of Cuzco. Now the team hopes to find the remains of the trio’s bodies, to prove whether they were actually decapitated – either during or after battle.

Washington Camacho, director of Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park, says the heads most likely belong to rival chiefs (curacas) or religious leaders of enemy tribes. The heads would have been taken as trophies of war, and offered to the gods. Camacho says the ritual offering of heads occurred during the mysterious culture’s final throes, around 1500 AD, under the rule of Huayna Capac.

Heads were taken as war trophies, and offered to the gods.

Many more human remains have been found by the team at Qowicarana Ridge, including teeth, loose bones and the substantial remnants of 45-year-old man and a baby boy aged just two. Also discovered are two small dishes, decorated with shells. Human sacrifice has always been closely associated with the Inca Empire, South America’s largest pre-Columbian civilisation, which lasted from around 1200 to 1600 AD.

Cuzco is one of the continent’s most important cities; having nurtured the powerful Kingdom of Cuzco which became part of the Inca Empire in the 15th century. The ancient city of Pikillaqta is just one of its many wonders. Peru is one of the world’s hottest archaeological countries: just last week experts unearthed the body of a 1600-year-old deformed priestess in the ancient city of Cahuachi, near modern Nazca.

Should we dig up the bodies of ancient peoples? Is it our right to disturb bodies which were never meant to leave their final resting places? Have your say at Heritage Key – either via the , our contact page or by emailing me direct.