BA & MA (anthro) Univ of Toronto, PHD (anthro) Southern Illinois University
Currently teaching at the University of Western Ontario, specializing in trade relations, skeletal analysis and economics within Mesoamerica.
Spence has excavated extensively at Teotihuacan, Mexcio including Tlailotlacan an ethnic ward occupied by a group of Zapotec Indians who migrated to Teotihuacan from their homeland in the Valley of Oaxaca about 200 AD. Despite their long-term residence in the city, excavation data show that they maintained their distinctive ethnic identity right to the city's collapse ca. 600 AD.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Society.
The following was submitted in July, 1997, for a Newsletter that did not develop.
In 1996 I worked with a team of Mexican physical anthropologists conducting a thorough analysis of the Quetzalcoatl sacrifices in Teotihuacan. At about 200 AD, with the construction of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, some 250 people were sacrificed and buried in a a carefully designed pattern at the temple site. The osteological analyses include age and sex determination, pathology, DNA, and metric and morphological studies. My particular role was to analyze the non-metric skeletal morphology of the sacrifices, and with Andres del Angel of UNAM to analyze dental morphology. This was done for all of the 160 extant burials. I am very grateful to INAH and to the personnel of the Dirrecion de Antropologia Fisica for their permission and support; to George Cowgill of Arizona State University for his support and advice; and to NEH and NSF for financial support. Preliminary assessment of the results of the analysis of non-metric skeletal morphology suggests that the selection of victims for the sacrifice was not random. In particular, the groups of individuals dressed in the attire of soldiers seem to represent kin groups. Certain rare traits (eg, retained deciduous teeth, supernumary maxillary teeth) were concentrated in some groups but absent in others. These kin groups would have been relatively small, perhaps on the order of an apartment compound with a population of about 60-100 people. The sacrifice of 9 to 18 young to middle-age men (the size of the soldier burials) would effectively destroy such a group. It would seem, then, that something more than just religious fervor was involved in the event. Perhaps the occasion of the sacrifice was taken as an opportunity to settle some old political accounts in the city.
Several of the sacrificed soldiers wore elaborate collars that included modified human maxillas and mandibles. Some soldiers had as many as ten of these. The size of the teeth and the levels of wear on them indicate that most of these "trophies" were from males, and that they covered a wide age range, from 14 to 60 years. Presumably they were enemies killed by the sacrificed soldiers. Oxygen isotopic analysis by Christine White, University of Western Ontario indicates that these slain enemies came from a variety of different regions though some of them were apparently from Teotihuacan itself.
Society | Forum | Mesoamerica | home | Current Research