New Discovery Shows the Incas Used Severed Trophy Heads to Show Their Power

The gruesome archeological discovery was found in a village called Iglesia Colorada.
Donovan Alexander

Deriving from the Andean civilization, the Incan people would go on to dominate South America during the 16th century, ruling the largest empire of the time.

Though the Incas allegedly never numbered more than 100,000 individuals, they ruled an empire of more than 10 million people.  However, this massive elaborate society would eventually come to an abrupt end. 


Nevertheless, researchers and historians have been fascinated by the military might that the Incas wielded over their counterparts, as well as what military methods the Incas used to keep their enemies at bay. To gain insight into these methods the researchers have looked to archeological findings.

A recent discovery made in Copiapó Valley in northern Chile has done just that. 

Incan trophies

The Incan people kept people in-line using ideological violence. And new forms of this violence, which began to emerge during 1476 CE to 1534 CE or the time period also known as the Late Horizon was specifically grim.

So, how creatively violent were they?

Published in a new research paper, researchers found a new form of unprecedented violence that has the same vibes as the symbol that the white walkers would create with bodies within the Game of Thrones series or the cruel methods of Vlad the Impaler.

The Incas from the Copiapó Valley seemed to impale and display human heads, eventually just casting the heads away without a grave. The aim of displaying heads in that manner was simply to flex power in newly acquired regions.

New Discovery Shows the Incas Used Severed Trophy Heads to Show Their Power
Rope might have been strung through the holes drilled in this skull, which was found in a centuries-old rubbish dump in modern Chile. Source: F. Garrido & C. Morales via Nature

As stated in the paper, "We argue that the observed pattern of severed head modification may represent new ideological efforts for controlling possible social unrest, which was especially likely considering the distance of the site from major imperial centers."

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"Thus, the performative use of shocking and powerful displays of violence may have helped demonstrate political control and ensured compliance with Inca rule."

The ritualistic heads were found in a village called Iglesia Colorada, a large settlement in the region that the Incas routinely used to mine for copper. 

The poorly preserved skulls found in the region ranged from the ages 11 to 30, all with similar modifications that imply that their heads were used as trophies, though researchers believe they can not say for sure. More discoveries in the region could further this theory. 

One thing is for sure. You did not want to anger the Incas during their height of power. 

The research was published in Cambridge University Press' Journal Latin American Antiquity.

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