Nearly 200 human spines found threaded onto posts in Peru

Examples of human vertebrae on posts, found in Peru's Chincha Valley, are shown.

(CNN)Almost 200 examples of human spines threaded onto reed posts have been discovered in Peru, revealing a unique way of treating the dead that has never previously been documented in the region, according to a new study.

An international team of researchers working in the Chincha Valley, on Peru's southern coast, found the majority of the "vertebrae-on-posts" in large Indigenous graves known as "chullpas," which date back hundreds of years to around the time that European colonizers were present in the South American country.
Of the 192 spines found on posts in the region, archaeologists found that, in almost every case, they were made from the remains of a single individual, according to the study published Tuesday in the archaeology journal Antiquity.
    It appears that adults and juveniles in the Indigenous community were the ones chosen for this unique practice and, according to researchers, the "vertebrae-on-posts" are thought to have been created between 1450 and 1650 -- as the Inca rule came to an end and European colonization became widespread and dominant in the region.
      Indigenous graves known as "chullpas," where the spines were threaded on posts, were discovered by archaeologists.
      Jacob L. Bongers, lead author of the study, said this particular period was "turbulent" in the history of the Chincha Valley, as "epidemics and famines decimated local people."
      Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Chincha Valley had been home to the Chincha Kingdom from 1000 to 1400 and had even established an alliance with the powerful Inca Empire. But as European colonizers swept into the region, the population was decimated as it declined from more than 30,000 heads of household in 1533 to just 979 by 1583.
      Bongers, a senior research associate in archaeology at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, has also documented the looting of hundreds of graves in the region in previous research.