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Revealing Social Relationships and Intersectional Identities in a Pre-Columbian Muisca Community Through Diet and Activity (Sabana de Bogotá, Colombia AD 1000-1400)

Lecture | February 8 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)

Melanie Miller, University of California, Berkeley Department of Anthropology

Archaeological Research Facility

The Muisca cultural group occupied a large Andean territory around the Sabana de Bogotá (Colombia) for at least 800 years before the Spanish arrived in 1536-37. Historically, the Muisca have been portrayed as a classic chiefdom society, with an emphasis on social rank and hierarchy as a primary aspect of Muisca social life. Highly stratified societies are characterized by differentiation between groups along various socially defined axes, and traditional models have emphasized social status for the Muisca. I examined 199 individuals from a Muisca population (Tibanica archaeological site, AD 1000-1400) to see how diet and activity patterns are intertwined with biocultural aspects of identity including sex, age, and social status. The kinds of food a person consumes and the kinds of labor they perform are related to socio-political-economic relationships. To investigate social identities and relationships in this Muisca community I studied 199 individual's tooth and bone samples using stable isotope analysis to track dietary patterns over the lifetime and I performed cross-sectional geometry analysis on long bones (humerus and femur) from 63 individuals to study habitual patterns of physical exertion related to repeated activity. The data indicated that a fundamental aspect of Muisca social identities and relationships were differences between the sexes, with divisions between males and females affecting daily practices such as eating and working. These results demonstrate the capacity for bioarchaeological studies to provide unique data that can illuminate complex social relationships that may not be observed through other lines of evidence.