This volume is a major contribution to the study of mortuary practices in the Andes. The book is the result of the annual symposium on a specific topic or area of Latin America organized by the Dumbarton Oaks institution. The editor’s excellent introduction reviews the theoretical perspectives on mortuary practice studies, and the ten articles range from Chile to Colombia and from the pre-ceramic of the Chinchorro culture in Chile up to the present ayllus of the Kallawayas in Bolivia.
The methodologies and research objectives also range widely. John H. Rowe contributes a historical review of the study of burials in Peru, while other articles offer archaeological interpretations of the burials in relation to status, rank, specialization, ideology, trade, and empowerment of the elites. The approaches are exemplified by papers on the mummification practices of the kin-based Chinchorro society by the Chilean archaeologist Mario Rivera, the tombs of the San Agustín chiefdoms in Colombia by Robert D. Drennan, the Nazca by Patrick H. Carmichael, and state societies on the Moche by Christopher Donnan. An article by John W. Verano describes the nature of human remains as offerings and trophies for the Nazca, Paracas, Moche, and Chimor cultures.
This mosaic of articles even includes a very interesting discussion by Jane Buikstra on the variety of mortuary practices found at the Osmore Valley cemeteries in Peru. Her analysis is cast in regard to the valley’s possible relationship as a colony of the Tiwanaku state. Another set of chapters concentrates on the ethnohistory of mortuary rituals in colonial Peru by Frank Salomon, ethnoarchaeology and ethnohistory of the Araucanian funeral mounds by Tom D. Dillehay, and finally, a very interesting ethnography of a funeral in a Quechua ayllu in Bolivia by Joseph W. Bastian.
All these diverse chapters are discussed at the end of the book by Patricia J. Lyon and James A. Brown. These final two essays tie together very well the tapestry of chapters that share only the same object of study. Indeed, this book would be easier to follow if it had a common research problem. Nevertheless, as expected, once more Tom Dillehay and Dumbarton Oaks have made an important contribution to Latin American studies by producing this significant volume.