A few days ago Ancient Origins (see link below for story) published an article about a mummified skull of a newborn having been discovered in Peru and that this skull is unusual because it is elongated. So does this prove that the Paracas skulls were born that way and not manipulated as part of some sort of cultural tradition?
The Paracas culture lived in the Andes Mountains of Peru between 800-100 BCE. It appears that they had a rather extensive knowledge in water management and irrigation. This area is the Ica region of Peru and most of our information about the Paracas people comes from excavations at a seaside site on the Paracas Peninsula that was first excavated by Julio Tello a Peruvian archaeologist in the 1920’s.
Most researchers believe that the Paracas engaged in what is known as “artificial cranial deformation” (head flattening, head binding) which results in the elongation of the skull. It is achieved by distorting the growth of a child’s skull by applying force via binding to the young skull. This practice typically begins when the child is an infant as the infant’s skull is pliable and can be rather easily shaped and manipulated. It would begin at birth and continue for about 6 months or so. Most researchers believe that the Paracas Skulls are the result of intention head binding and manipulating the skeleton is more common that you might think. For instance, in China young girls had their feet broken and bound to achieve small feet as they grew older. Some Native America tribes used cradle boards which resulted in the flattening of the back of the skull in an infant. Thus, it would not have been unusual for the Paracas people to have intentionally manipulated the infant skull to achieve an elongated, flattened, rounded, or conical skull shape. Perhaps it was done for religious reasons. Perhaps it was done as a mark of nobility. Perhaps it was done for beauty!
It has been suggested that these skulls are elongated (or otherly shaped) because they are not human skulls at all but alien or alien-human hybrids. Is there evidence to support this assertion? Let’s take a further look at the Paracas Skulls and Paracas Culture.
Flattening and elongating the infant human skull can be achieved by binding the young skull between two pieces of wood. Rounded skulls can be achieved using cloth binding. Conical skulls can be achieved using a combination of the two. An infant’s skull is very pliable and using the right technique can be molded into just about any shape one desires. Intentional manipulation of the human skull predates written history and, in fact, was practiced by many ancient cultures if many different regions and even today some cultures still practice it such as in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu.
Specimens found in the Shanidar Cave in Iraq and in southwestern Asia have been found so the practice seems to have been global rather than regional and multicultural rather than limited to one or two cultures. Hippocrates made the earliest known written record of this practice when he spoke of the “Macrocephali” (large skull) named for their practice of cranial manipulation and deformation in 400 BC.
The Huns are also known to have engaged in this practice as were the Alans, East Germanic Tribes, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, and others. The Maya and Inca are also known to have practiced skull manipulation as were the Choctaw and Chinookan. In North America there was a tribe known as the “Flatheads” and although they did NOT engage in this practice used cradleboards to flatten the head of their infants as did the Choctaw, Chehalis, Nooksack, and other Native American tribes. Evidence of skull manipulation has also been found among the Lucayan people in the Bahamas and also among Aboriginal Australians.
History shows that sometimes skull deformation was not intentional such as evidence found in Toulouse, France where people used to wrap a newborn’s head in cloth to prevent injury. In this case skull deformation was an unintended result and was a medical practice known as “bandeau” practiced among the peasantry there. Binding the heads of newborns was common in France and also in western Russia, the Caucasus, and Scandinavia even in the 12th century. Reasons for engaging in this practice varied ranging from esthetic to pseudo-scientific reasons. Some cultures held the view that the shape of the skull enabled the person to hold certain thoughts or types of thoughts so they would intentionally deform the newborns skull as a result.
Many researchers believe that skull manipulation was actually done to signify social status such as nobility or other high status in a culture. Among the ancient Maya skull manipulation may have been motivated by creating a specific skull shape that their society found more pleasing or desirable. Other cultures used the practice to create a skull that they believed showed more intelligence or a person who was close to the spirits of the ancestors or gods.
Although some cultures may have practiced skull deformation as part of an effort to signify greater intelligence scientific evidence proves that there is NO significant difference in cranial capacity between normal skull shapes and artificially deformed skull shapes and this includes the elongated Paracas Skulls as well.
Most likely the new find of an infant elongated skull as reported in Ancient Origins recently is NOT proof at all that the infant was born with an elongated skull. In fact, some people’s bound the heads of their infants immediately after birth and not only at a month old as the article asserts. Of course this is not the only elongated infant skull found as the article also notes. But then……there is the matter of the elongated skulls of fetuses that have been found!! How do we explain this oddity?
Back in 1851 Rivero and Tschudi claim to have discovered an unborn fetus in a mummy in Peru and the fetus had an elongated skull inside the womb. This mummy was claimed to have been found in a cave at Huichay not far from Tarma. They along with other researchers theorized that these skulls are the remains of some unknown ancient race now extinct “who left their legacy on the populations who succeeded them as a practice of artificial cranial deformation.”
I must note that the person reporting this find is named Brien Foerster who runs Hidden Inca Tours which focuses on the paranormal aspect of the ancient Inca. Many researchers do not consider Foerster reliable while others such as the “Ancient Aliens” program do.
So what about DNA tests on these Paracas skulls? More than 300 of these elongated skulls have been found in Peru alone and some of them date back 3000 years. In 2014 preliminary DNA testing on the skulls was conducted using mtDNA and the results of that analysis claimed the Paracas skulls had “mutations unknown in any human, primate, or animal known so far.” A second round of testing was conducted and reported by L.A. Marzulli in 2016. That testing showed that the Paracas skulls had “European and Middle Eastern origins.” This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest as I think the ancient people of ancient times had far more contact that the orthodox opinion likes to admit.
Skull manipulation was actually rather common in my opinion in ancient times and in some places still is today. In my mind it is, therefore, NOT an unusual phenomena NOR is it evidence of an alien presence on planet Earth! I also do not think that the Paracas skulls are evidence for some unknown, now extinct race as DNA testing on these skulls reveals a European and/or Mid-Eastern origin. The practice of skull deformation may have well been brought to the Americas by these European/Mid-eastern people long, long ago. That would NOT be unusual in my opinion.
I do have another thought about all this skull deformation, however. We DO know Homo erectus had elongated skulls but not as elongated at those seen in the Paracas specimens. But I wonder if the Paracas skulls and others around the world might be some form of genetic oddity produced by H. erectus interbreeding with some known or as yet unknown ancient hominid. Might the practice of skull manipulation began with H. erectus and were the later ancient people trying to emulated them? Just a thought….
NOTE ON HUMAN SKULL SHAPES—(Cephalic Index)
The Cephalic Index (aka: Cranial Index) is the ratio of the max width of the head of an organism multiplied by 100 divided by its max length (front to back). Note that when it comes to human skull shapes there are a wide variety, in fact, more than most people think.
Macrocephalic (abnormally large headed)
Dolichocephalic (long headed)
Brachycephalic (short headed) also known as Brachycranial
Mesaticephalic (medium headed) also known as Mesocephalic or Mesocranial.