1000-year-old modded skulls discovered in Mexico

13 unusually-shaped skulls were recently unearthed in Mexico when workers were digging an irrigation system. They are about 1,000 years old. Time reported that researcher Cristina Garcia Moreno of Arizona State University said, “We don’t know why this population specifically deformed their heads.”

Tai-wiki-widbee said: "There's more information at the Artificial Cranial Deformation page at Wikipedia, where I found the image at right (Painting by Paul Kane, showing a Chinookan child in the process of having its head flattened, and an adult after the process) and these notes:"

Early examples of intentional human cranial deformation predate written history and date back to 45,000 BC in Neanderthal skulls, and to the Proto-Neolithic Homo sapiens component (12th millennium BCE) from Shanidar Cave in Iraq. It occurred among Neolithic peoples in SW Asia. The earliest written record of cranial deformation dates to 400 BC in Hippocrates' description of the Macrocephali or Long-heads, who were named for their practice of cranial modification.
This is NOT the skull of an extraterrestrial alien


  1. I fail to see why this is such a big news item.  Having lived in Peru for several years, I saw in a number of museums skulls that had been shaped in different fashions by different ethnic groups (including the methods to achieve the various deformations).  Odd certainly, but nothing new there…

      1.  I have never lived in Peru and I know about those weird skull shaping traditions.
        National Geographic or maybe the History Channel*, I really don’t remember.

        *Impossible to prove since the channel no longer emits history related shows.

    1. Mark doesn’t mention it, and the linked article brushes over it, but this is news because the location and dating of the skulls are unexpected. The cultures living in that part of Mexico at the time were thought not to do the whole skull shaping thing. Skulls like this from 1000 years ago are well known from further South, and it was assumed that this was unique(ish) to the cultures in the area. Now it looks like it might have been a more broadly occurring practice in pre-columbian cultures. 

      ALSO FUN.

    2. Several years ago I read of this practice being carried out in France as late as the nineteenth century. I couldn´t find any more information about it anywhere at the time. I thought it was a European phenomenon. So, I´m rather thrilled to find out more about it here.
      Of course, if I were as sophisticated and cosmopolitan as you, solstice2005, I would have seen Peruvian museums by now.  Luckily, the internet is here to help us all become more like you.

      1. Any possible link to an article, magazine or website for this ? A region where this was done ? Never heard of such thing in France myself but I know this was done by some rare european tribes as late as the beginning of the middle-ages, so I’d like to know.

    3.  I hear that there was a young woman who lived in Peru, who had nothing whatever to do…

  2. Of course they’re not alien skulls.  They’re humans attempting to emulate their alien overlords…

    But seriously, I’d like to know if such extreme mods result in migraines or not.

      1.  That makes no sense at all.  If I cut a watermelon in half it doesn’t alter the taste.  You wanna bet that a lobotomy wouldn’t affect you?

  3. These modifications altered the shape of the developing brain, and probably altered cognition. The fact that this isn’t even suggested by people studying this stuff is amusing.  Here’s an idea: ASK A NEUROSCIENTIST

    Archaeologists dig stuff up, which is a noble profession.  But who decided they’re the best people to decide what is and is not “meaningless ritual” (in all likelihood nothing actually is, there’s just stuff we can’t explain yet practically). When alleged rituals involve significant alterations to human anatomy, people well-versed in human anatomy should be the ones interpreting the evidence.

    1.  I bet it’s a flip of a coin whether a given archaeologist has a better understanding of human anatomy than a given neuroscientist (mostly because lots of those neuroscience people are going to be neck deep in cellular level function).

      Neither one likely has much ability to make anything but a guess as to any functional changes wrought by such alterations.

      1.  “I bet it’s a flip of a coin whether a given archaeologist has a better understanding of human anatomy”

        I’m gonna stop you right there.  Clearly when I’m talking about altered anatomy here, I’m referring to the body region in question.

        “than a given neuroscientist”

        Nope.  Neuroscientists are considerably more knowledgeable about human brain anatomy and the consequences of modifying it.  It’s absurd to call the two professions comparable here.

        1. The fact that you seem to have not the slightest clue what an archaeologist does is amusing. Here is an idea: ASK AN ARCHAEOLOGIST

          BTW: as an archaeologist who just a few month ago participated in creating an exhibition ( http://www.schaedelkult.lwl.org ) concerning Skulls and the related cults and practices I can assure you we talked with more than one Neuroscientist and physician about the physiological consequences of those skull deformations – and we weren’t the first ones to do so.

    2. I take exception to “probably altered cognition” followed by the suggestion that because that must be the case a neuroscientist should be confirming that for you?

      Archeologists do way more than nobly turn the earth and they work with more than a spade when trying to approximate the past with (in part) direct physical evidence.

      They also don’t limit their dialogue to other archeologists.

      There is no “meaningless ritual”, a statement you would seem to agree with, no? But what I mean is that the words “meaningless ritual” do not appear in any of the links associated with this post or in the body of the post or the comments except yours and now mine. 

      So I cannot fathom what the hell you are on about, partly due to lack of evidence, and partly to lack of interest, now with this period coming well abated.

  4. Augh, I hate to be the most ignorant person here, but why do the eye sockets and cheek bones look so different from other human skulls??  I do NOT want to be the alien buff, but, um, there appears to be other differences in addition to the elongated skull.  Kudos to the earlier commenter who also noted the perfect teeth.  

    1. Yep looks like a hoax to me.  Also, there should be a gaping hole where the nose was.  Unless there was also some sort of mummification process involved. 

      1.  You are looking at the side of the skull from slightly to the rear. You can’t see the nose hole because it is on the front. You can only see the sides of the cheekbones (which are pretty variable anyway, just look around you) and you can’t see the eye sockets at all. I don’t really know what you are talking about.

  5. What could have been the motivations for such a strange practice all over the world ? Mimicking doesn’t seem to be a so stupid explanation but that implies so many things that never connected very well with science… On the other hand it could be that they wanted not to look like monkeys but instead differentiate from these animals ? Maybe one day we’ll find texts explaining these rites ? That would be really cool.

    1. As someone else said, they were probably trying to emulate the aliens they worshipped as gods.  Because even without video games and the internet, I find it difficult to believe that such a broad range of humans would be bored enough to independently invent this practice.  What do you think the reaction would be today if someone started doing this to their kids? 

      (I’m only about 50% serious about the emulating aliens bit, but every time I read about some archaeological anomaly like this, I think back to James P. Hogan’s novel, “Inherit the Stars” and companion volumes.)

  6. My room mate has a modded skull..because he was strapped in a cradleboard 38 years ago. It’s a common thing still in many modern, thriving, Native American tribes..back of the head is perfectly flat. It’s a sign of being raised (to a point) in a traditional (to them) manner. It’s not as noticable as the Peruvian ones shown, but it’s noticable.  My point is just because one hasn’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it’s not a common practice.

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