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Abstract

Chaco Canyon‘s Room 33 (excavated by George Pepper) and Aztec Ruins room 178 (excavated by Earl Morris) are recognized for their rich taphonomic context. These two mortuary features reveal a great deal of information about ritualized behavior. Researchers such as Akins and Palkovich have provided partial analyses of the Chaco skeletal material in the 1980s. The reanalysis of those remains considers the Chaco burials in relation to those at Aztec and analyzes their meaning through a thorough analysis of the grave goods, archaeological records, and ethnohistorical documents to provide a better understanding of these elaborate and unique mortuary rooms. Specifically, this study focuses on signatures of identity, biological, cultural, and socioeconomic. Biological identity markers include age, sex, and stature. Cultural identity includes mortuary context, graves goods, and site layout. Socioeconomic identity, which is the hardest to reconstruct is evidenced by the frequency and distribution of trauma related to exposure to violence, changes to anatomy related to unequal amounts of labor, and susceptibility to diseases over time. The result of looking at all these factors is that it is possible to reconstruct identity, such as Burial 3672 in Room 33. This male is especially intriguing because the burial shows evidence of extensive perimortem fractures on the cranium suggesting a violent death, and yet this is a very high status individual based on the stature and isotopic analysis as well as the grave offerings he was interred with. These kinds of taphonomic and mortuary features are explored.

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