Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ancient Skull Deformation Practices

Ancient elongated skull from Paracas, Peru

For whatever reason, some ancient peoples, including some ancient Native Americans, practiced various types of intentional skull deformation. This would be performed soon after birth, while an infant’s head was still malleable. “A mother strapped her baby into a cradleboard and then bound another board across the child’s forehead until the forehead was flattened, the sides swelled outward, and the eyes developed a bulging look to them” (La Vere 2007: 60). It appears these practices took place all over ancient Native America, from the Mississippi Valley to Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America) to Peru. (Biloxis were said to have practiced skull deformation to some degree, although to what degree is currently unknown.) “Flat-heading” seems to have been a favorite practice among many ancient Mississippian cultures, although, according to La Vere, Spiro (an ancient Mississippian mound center located in modern Oklahoma) appeared to favor head elongation. Elongation appears to have been practiced by some among the ancient Maya and by many ancient residents of Paracas, Peru. Whether this practice correlated with elite or priestly status, or to identify members of particular clans or allegiances, or simply as a symbol of beauty, is unknown. The practice also seems to have been performed to a certain degree among ancient Egyptians.


La Vere, David. 2007. Looting Spiro mounds: an American King Tut's tomb. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

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