The Chinchorro are a group of hunter-gatherers that existed in Southern Peru around 10000 to 4000 years ago. Interestingly, they began to mummify their dead rather suddenly, around 5050 BCE. Researchers have struggled to conclude the reasoning behind this abrupt culture change, until recently. It seems as though the Chinchorro halted their practice of burying the dead in part due to the environmental conditions. The dry climate allowed for the dead to be partially uncovered from their shallow graves due to the wind, leaving the remnants of the dead as constant reminders to the local population. This led to a certain familiarity with the dead that inspired complex burial rituals to evolve over time. This is an interesting cultural phenomena and pertains to our class quite obviously as an anthropological breakthrough.
This article summarizes a discovery that was recently made in Syria of a cluster of Stone Age skulls with smashed-in faces. There are a few intriguing aspects to this discovery. For one, the skeletons were dug up several years following the burial, then separated from the skulls, and finally reburied. The smashed faces are a new phenomena that further perpetuate the discussion on how these societies related to their dead. These skulls are about 10,000 years old, and they were indeed homo sapiens. This finding certainly relates to some of the material we covered in this class. From an anthropological standpoint, it would be interesting to make inferences based on this finding in regards to the culture of the time. Did they have some sort of system of capital punishment?