The latest article by Jacob Bongers ’07, “Assembling the Dead,” was recently published in the archaeological journal “Antiquity.” The subject of the article is the 192 human spines recently uncovered in Peru’s Chincha Valley, which represent a method of treating the deceased previously unknown to the area.
The vertebrae were found attached to posts in indigenous graves called “chullpas,” and date back to the period during which colonizers from Europe had been in the region, which coincided with disease and famine killing much of the local population, said Bongers, a senior research associate at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom. Previously, he documented the looting of graves in the Chincha Valley, which was also rampant in the colonial period due to the gold and silver contained within them, as well as the colonial practice of wiping out indigenous religious practices and customs. As such, the method of placing the spines on posts, the research suggests, may have been a means to repair the damage caused to the remains by the looting.
Bongers’ research has so far garnered coverage from CNN, The Guardian, Science, Nature, India Today and dozens more outlets. He was also interviewed for the Feb. 3 episode of NPR’s “The World.” His interview starts at 39 minutes and 40 seconds.