The recent discovery of the skull (above), from Sonora, Mexico has promoted a wave of articles proclaiming it, and other similar examples to be evidence of ancient alien contact. Images of elongated skulls or ‘cone-heads’ can be seen as far back as Sumerian and Egyptian times.
But the act of cranial deformation can be traced as even further to 45,000 years ago, suggesting it’s importance surpassed the safety of the child even then as cranial deformation is invariably carried out on infants while the bones are supple and flexible and can be fatal in cases of excessive deformation, which raises the important question: What was it that has led so many people from so many varied cultures to incorporate this characteristic into their children?
Cranial deformation can be defined as the product of dynamic distortion of the normal vectors of the infantile neurocranial growth through the agency of externally applied forces (Moss, 1958; p 275).
It has been found in every continent and is not limited to humans;
1. Shapiro, 1927;
2. Trinkaus, 1982;
3. Gerszten and Gerszten, 1995;
4. Tubbs, Salter;
5. Oaks, 2006).
As noted above, the cultural preference for elongated skulls has found its way onto every continent on the earth suggesting a cultural connection of great antiquity, and therefore one of potential importance. In the earliest Sumerian Al Ubiad pottery, there is a clear association to the gods, and variations on the idea that it was a symbol of status, high rank, or wisdom have been recorded in the traditions of differing cultures around the world offering a common theme that exists in the minds of people to this day. The pertinent question with regard this phenomena is whether or not such cranial deformity dolichocephaly has ever existed naturally in humans, and if so, what is the significance of such persistent emulation through artificial deformity by so many peoples for such a long time.
The earliest known 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 also occurred among Neolithic peoples in SW Asia. (1) and even greater antiquity has been assigned to dolicho-anomalies at Neolithic-Cyprus, Kow Swamp, Australia (13,000 BP), “and perhaps 18,000 – 23,000 BP. at Chou Kou Tien, China.”
Examples of Dolicocephalic Czech Cranium 35,000 BC:
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. He said of it:
“I will pass over the smaller differences among the nations, but will now treat of such as are great either from nature, or custom; and, first, concerning the Macrocephali tribe or `nation’ said to be living beyond the Bosphorus / Black Sea or maybe even further i.e Scythians. There is no other race of men which have heads in the least resembling theirs”.
They think those the most noble who have the longest heads…
“Iimmediately after the child is born, and while its head is still tender, they fashion it with their hands, and constrain it to assume a lengthened shape by applying bandages and other suitable contrivances whereby the spherical form of the head is destroyed, and it is made to increase in length”.
The act of artificial cranial deformation on infants was present in numerous ancient cultures, including some of the greatest, such as the Indus Valley, Sumerian, Egyptian, Olmec, Mayan, Inca etc etc… At present, such practices are all but gone but they were recorded into the 20th century with records of ‘Some isolated groups in Africa and South America who continue this practice’.
Of particular interest are those peoples which have been recorded to show a ‘natural’ or genetically inherited tendency for elongated skulls, as it has been shown that the biological result of such deformation is a larger skull, but perhaps more significantly, a larger brain. Something which offers a clear incentive for such potentially dangerous practices on newborns, but also one which takes on a different light in consideration of the persistent veneration for elongated heads.
It has been mentioned that skull elongation was present all around the ancient world, appearing in several different and apparently unrelated cultures. The basic procedure of moulding the skull was carried out on infants as their cranium is soft and pliable while they are in their early years.
It involved attaching a plank of padding to the front of the skull and compressing it into the desirable shape. It will be seen that there is a suggestion that elongated skulls may have been a genetically inherited trait in some cases, while the majority of known examples are demonstrated to be an emulation of this.
These skulls are common from about 5,000 to 7,000 BC in the areas that would later become Iran and then diffusing out into the surrounding territories. Many skulls in the same time period from Iraq, Southern Turkey and Syria are also deformed but not usually so severely.
In later historical time many of the Iranian-speaking nomads of Central Asia continued the tradition and eventually the trait was introduced into Europe from the East by the invasions of the Huns. (8) In the Old world, ‘Huns’ and ‘Alans’ are also known to have practised similar cranial deformation. At around AD 300-600, the East Germanic tribes who were ruled by the Huns, adopted this custom.
The earliest significant record of skull elongation comes in the form of the pottery representations of the Gods from the 5th millennium B.C. The Al-Ubaid culture proceeded the Sumerian culture was a people known as the Ubaidians who established settlements in the region later known as Sumer (Mesopotamia) It has been noticed that there are very strong similarities between the Ubaid artwork, and that of of ‘Old Europe’ Vinca Culture which flourished c. 6,000 – 3,500 BC.
John Marshall’s “Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization” as well as “Anthropology” (by Ram Nath Sharma, Rajendra Kumar Sharma) in addition to Al-Ubaid burials, wrote that cranial deformation features were also seen of skulls of Kish; Ur of Mesopotamia; Additanallur in Madras; Veddahs of Ceylon (Sri Lanka); Naga of Calcutta; jar burials of Harappa; Mediterranean; Nal in Baluchistan; Sialkot in Punjab; and Bayana (Aryan skulls) in Uttar Pradesh. Marshall makes a comparison between the elongated Al Ubaid skulls and those found from the Indus Valley Civilisation, noting that the Al Ubaid skulls are ‘Not as elongated as those from Mohenjo-Daro’.
Sumeria: (Mesopotamia, ‘The Land Between Two Rivers’).
The Sumerian civilisation developed on the Persian Gulf, growing to strength at around 4 – 3,000 B.C. The ‘Plain of the Land of Shinar’ is the territory which after 2,000 B.C. became called Babylon. The Greeks named the region Mesopotamia (The land between two rivers), most of which lies in the modern state of Iraq.
Al Ubaid Elongated Skulls:
Marshall makes a comparison between the elongated Al Ubaid skulls and those found from the Indus Valley Civilisation, noting that the Al Ubaid skulls are ‘Not as elongated as those from Mohenjo-Daro’.