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Concept: Human sacrifice


Examination of three frozen bodies, a 13-y-old girl and a girl and boy aged 4 to 5 y, separately entombed near the Andean summit of Volcán Llullaillaco, Argentina, sheds new light on human sacrifice as a central part of the Imperial Inca capacocha rite, described by chroniclers writing after the Spanish conquest. The high-resolution diachronic data presented here, obtained directly from scalp hair, implies escalating coca and alcohol ingestion in the lead-up to death. These data, combined with archaeological and radiological evidence, deepen our understanding of the circumstances and context of final placement on the mountain top. We argue that the individuals were treated differently according to their age, status, and ritual role. Finally, we relate our findings to questions of consent, coercion, and/or compliance, and the controversial issues of ideological justification and strategies of social control and political legitimation pursued by the expansionist Inca state before European contact.

Concepts: Bolivia, Argentina, Andes, Ecuador, Peru, Spanish Empire, Human sacrifice, Child sacrifice


Research into moral decision-making has been dominated by sacrificial dilemmas where, in order to save several lives, it is necessary to sacrifice the life of another person. It is widely assumed that these dilemmas draw a sharp contrast between utilitarian and deontological approaches to morality, and thereby enable us to study the psychological and neural basis of utilitarian judgment. However, it has been previously shown that some sacrificial dilemmas fail to present a genuine contrast between utilitarian and deontological options. Here, I raise deeper problems for this research paradigm. Even when sacrificial dilemmas present a contrast between utilitarian and deontological options at a philosophical level, it is misleading to interpret the responses of ordinary folk in these terms. What is currently classified as “utilitarian judgment” does not in fact share essential features of a genuine utilitarian outlook, and is better explained in terms of commonsensical moral notions. When subjects deliberate about such dilemmas, they are not deciding between opposing utilitarian and deontological solutions, but engaging in a richer process of weighing opposing moral reasons. Sacrificial dilemmas therefore tell us little about utilitarian decision-making. An alternative approach to studying proto-utilitarian tendencies in everyday moral thinking is proposed.

Concepts: Psychology, Critical thinking, Paradigm, Linguistics, Ethics, Morality, Sacrifice, Human sacrifice


Clipping of paraclinoid internal carotid artery aneurysms related to the superior hypophyseal artery (SHA) carries risk of occlusion of this artery when originating distal to the neck of the aneurysm. Sometimes it is inevitable to sacrifice the artery to achieve total aneurysm occlusion. Otherwise a residual aneurysm would remain, which may lead to aneurysm regrowth and subsequent rupture. However, consequences of SHA sacrifice are rarely reported in the literature. In the two presented cases, the SHA was found originating distal to the neck and within the wall of the aneurysm, making the optimal clipping of the aneurysm at the neck unfeasible without trapping of the SHA. Intraoperative indocyanine green (ICG) angiography revealed a retrograde blood flow in the SHA distal to the clip in both patients, indicating some collateral circulation. No endocrinologic deficits were encountered after surgery. The vision was not affected in one patient. In the other patient, bilateral visual field defects occurred, which improved partially in the follow-up 2 months after surgery. The consequences of SHA occlusion are difficult to predict. A large variety of anatomical variations of the vascular anatomy exists. Intraoperative ICG angiography may help to estimate collateral blood flow but is not able to predict visual decline. Although final conclusions cannot be drawn from two patients, it seems that in case of multiplicity of superior hypophyseal complex, sacrifice of one even larger branch is safe. However, visual sequelae have to be taken into consideration when a single SHA has to be sacrificed for total aneurysm clipping.

Concepts: Atherosclerosis, Internal carotid artery, Common carotid artery, External carotid artery, Internal jugular vein, Visual field, Sacrifice, Human sacrifice


This study investigates two key variables-residential context and subsistence-among sacrificial victims dating to the Late Horizon (A.D. 1450-1532) in the Huaca de los Sacrificios at the Chotuna-Chornancap Archaeological Complex in north coastal Peru. We investigate whether aspects of sacrifice in this distant coastal province mirrored that found in Inca heartland contexts such as the capacocha, or remained more typical of coastal sacrificial traditions. Stable carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotope values were characterized in bone carbonate, bone collagen, and hair keratin to estimate geographic residence during the decade before death and diet in the decade, versus months, before death. Bone δ(18) O(carbonate) values have a mean (±SD) of 26.8 ± 1.1%, bone δ(13) C(carbonate) values -6.7 ± 1.7%, and bone δ(13) C(collagen) values 11.8 ± 1.3%; bone δ(15) N(collagen) values have a mean of 11.5 ± 1.3%. Combined hair δ(13) C(keratin) values have a mean of -12.8 ± 1.6%, and hair δ(15) N(keratin) values 10.8 ± 1.3%. In contrast to contemporaneous coastal and highland contexts, we are unable to identify immigrants among the sacrificed individuals or changes in diet that indicate provisioning with a standardized diet leading up to death. Instead, results suggest that victims were local to the area, but consumed moderately variable diets consistent with local subsistence patterns. These findings suggest a distinct pattern of human sacrifice in the Late Horizon and underscore the regional and temporal variation in sacrificial practices in the central Andes. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Collagen, Carbon, Andes, Mesoamerica, Sacrifice, Human sacrifice, Child sacrifice, Jephthah