Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Ford, Susan


During prehispanic times (1250 B.P. - 1521 A.D), Mesoamerica was the most powerful nation in the entire America continent. One of the most important ethnic groups was the Zapotecs located in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their history started in those days and it has not ended. The ancient Zapotec gave human femora from the dead special treatments. This thesis seeks to understand the cultural meaning of human femora within ancient Zapotec belief systems, especially the cultural meaning when special treatment of femora was involved in mortuary rituals and practices long after the death of the individual. To understand when this practice began, who did it, why they did it, and what was the significance of human femora for the Zapotecs, it was necessary to know where those femora came from, from ancestors or captives. This research included bioanthropological methodologies considering sex, age and minimum number of individuals, to determine if this practice had a pattern, and also observations on whether human femora had cultural and natural taphonomic modifications. The data were collected from publications from Lambityeco, Mitla, Monte Albán and San Miguel Albarradas, Oaxaca. The results demonstrated that ancient Zapotecs used ancestors' remains as part of their rituals, particularly the femur. Therefore we still lack any bioanthropological evidence for Zapotecs taking human captives.




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