The Inca collection (13th-15th century AD) from the Boccolari-Parenti collection (Modena, Italy): preliminary bioanthropological and paleopathological analyses

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Mirko Traversari
Adriana Latorre
Cristiana Zanasi
Elena Righi
Ilaria Pulini
Irene Faenza
Sara Salucci
Gianandrea Pasquinelli
Luca Ventura


Paleopathology, Inca mummy, bioanthropological collection


The section on Ancient Peru of the Civic Museum of Modena preserves a valuable collection of materials recovered by Antonio Boccolari and Paolo Parenti, two officers of the Italian navy who were part of the crew of the Corvetta Vettor Pisani, during his voyage of circumnavigation of the globe, towards the end of the 19th century. In the collection, there is an intact mummy and several heads from the Necropolis of Ancón, which can be traced back to a cultural horizon between the 11th century AD and the final period of the Inca Empire (1532). The mummy was subjected to direct inspection, a CT scan was performed at the Policlinico of Modena then several skulls were taken for histological investigations, FTIR spectroscopic studies, radiocarbon dating and genetic study. CT dataset was also used for virtual facial reconstruction. The analysis of the biological profile indicates the sex of the mummy as female, with an age at death of 17-20 years, large skin folds suggest the presence of body fat. The anthropometric evaluation demonstrates a good bone consistency, without indices of strength, the skull has received an anthropogenic modification. The CT scan shows a part of the trachea and esophagus, a large part of the diaphragm, probably the two kidneys, plus different vascular structures are still visible. CT scan also revealed teeth spread throughout the body of the mummy. Numerous cotton seeds were found in the abdomen, probably the result of a rodent burrow. Considering the level of skeletonization reached by the seven skulls and the single calvarium, the investigation applied was the direct analysis. Interesting is the presence of auricular exostosis in a male individual (Id.  4), a condition that develops mainly due to environmental factors; in the case of ancient populations, as in our case study, the presence of this character is probably attributable to the action of spearfishing. The cranial indicators obtained reveal a general brachycephalic index (a skull with a decreased antero-posterior diameter). Additionally, in the case of Id. 1, 5, 6, and the mummified girl, a hyperbrachycephalic index is observed.
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