October 11, 2003 Melissa S. Murphy: "Coca leaf chewing and the Inca: Evidence from Puruchuco-Huaquerones, Peru"

    Investigations of human remains from the Inca cemetery of
Puruchuco-Huaquerones have revealed evidence of coca leaf chewing and the
presence of coca and coca paraphenalia.  Research in biological
anthropology, paleopathology, archaeology, and ethnohistory has indicated
that coca chewing has a long tradition in the Andean region.  On the basis
of ethnohistorical documents and ceramic iconography, some scholars argue
that coca leaf chewing was reserved for the Inca elite and for ritualistic
purposes.  However, other Inca scholars counter that coca chewing was not
restricted to the elites and that all of the inhabitants of the Inca realm
had access to coca leaves.  Dental evidence from this study indicates that
not all of the inhabitants of Puruchuco-Huaquerones show evidence of coca
leaf chewing.  This evidence gives some credence to the limited availability
of coca leaf chewing for residents of the central coast of Peru during Inca
rule.

    Melissa Murphy is currently writing her doctoral dissertation in
biological anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.   She received
her B.A. from Haverford College.  Her current research concentrates on the
health, disease, and demography of the human remains from the cemetery of
Puruchuco-Huaquerones and how the sociopolitical organization of the Inca
may have impacted the health of subjects of the Inca Empire interred at the
cemetery.  She has also participated in field projects at Huaca de la Luna,
El Brujo and Huaca Prieta in Peru and Paleolithic sites in Israel and
France.

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