The incredible ‘alien’ skulls discovered in a Mexican cemetery
- Find is new evidence of cranial deformation, where skulls were tightly bound in wooden supports to alter their shape
- Unique head shape was used to differentiate different social classes
By Mark Prigg
PUBLISHED: 14:47 EST, 18 December 2012 | UPDATED: 14:54 EST, 18 December 2012
It is an astonishing image that could have come straight from the plot of a Ridley Scott movie.
Archaeologists in Mexico today revealed the astonishing skull of a person suffering from a cranial disfiguration.
Believed to be 1,000 years old, the find was made near the small Mexican village of Onavas.
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The find is believed to be the first in the region showing the practice of binding a skull to change its shape.
‘Cranial deformation in Mesoamerican cultures was used to differentiate one social group from another and for ritual purposes,’ said archaeologist Cristina Garcia Moreno, director of the research project.
The burial ground consists of 25 individuals; 13 have intentional cranial deformation and five also have dental mutilation.
‘This unique find shows a mix of traditions from different groups of northern Mexico,’ said Moreno.
The use of ornaments made from sea shells from the Gulf of California had never been found before in Sonoran territory and this discovery extends the limit of influence of Mesoamerican peoples farther north than has been previously recorded,” she said in a video posted to YouTube.
Some of the individuals were wearing ornaments such as as bangles, nose rings, earrings, pendants made from shells found in the Gulf of California, and one burial contained a turtle shell, carefully placed over the abdomen, according to Past Horizons.
Garcia Moreno has been conducting work on behalf of Arizona State University with approval of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
The dental mutiliations discovered are believed to be a rite of passage.
‘The dental mutilation in cultures such as the Nayarit was seen as a rite of passage into adolescence,’ said Moreno.
‘This is confirmed by the findings at the Sonora cemetery where the five bodies with dental mutilation are all over 12 years in age.’
SKULL BINDING THROUGH HISTORY
Also known as head binding or head flattening, the practice was usually done to signify group affiliation or as a way to demonstrate social status.
The earliest written record of cranial deformation dates to 400 BC in Hippocrates’ description of the Macrocephali or Long-heads, although it is believed the Neanderthals may also have used the technique.
It was typically carried out on infants as their skulls could be easily moulded.
To create the effect, wooden boards were applied to the skull with pressure, typically starting at the age of about one month, and then for the next six months.
However, the method was extremely risky, and in the latest find, researchers believe the fact many of those with disfigured skulls died young show just how dangerous it was.
However, she continued,’In this case, you cannot recognise any social differences because all the burials seem to have the same characteristics.
‘Nor have we been able to determine why some were wearing ornaments and others not, or why of the 25 skeletons only one was female. “
The team say the number of infants and pre-pubescents could show the high risks involved in the cranial deformation, which can kill from the excessive force squeezing the skull.
The find has been dated to the year 943 CE from samples taken from one of the individuals.
Believed to be 1,000 years old, the find was made near the small Mexican village of Onava