Elongated Skulls

In various places around the globe (Human?) skeletons have been un-earthed that have outrageously elongated skulls. The standard explanation for this is that the individuals have undergone some kind of head mutilation ritual. Is this a likely or indeed possible cause of these Extra terrestrial looking finds ? It is worth noting that a documentary by Joanna Lumley told of ancient folk-lore insisting that these skulls were from a race of beings known to be ultra intelligent.
JNS Journal of Neurosurgery

A look at Mayan artificial cranial deformation practices: morphological and cultural aspects
by Samuel Romero-Vargas M.D.1, José Luis Ruiz-Sandoval M.D.2, Arturo Sotomayor-González M.D.1, Rogelio Revuelta-Gutiérrez M.D.1, Miguel Angel Celis-López M.D.1, Juan Luis Gómez-Amador M.D.1, Ulises García-González M.D.1, Raul López-Serna M.D.1, Victor García-Navarro M.D.1, Diego Mendez-Rosito M.D.1, Victor Correa-Correa M.D.1, and Sergio Gómez-Llata M.D.1

Online Publication Date: Dec 2010

Induced deformation of the cranial vault is one form of permanent alteration of the body that has been performed by human beings from the beginning of history as a way of differentiating from others. These procedures have been observed in different cultures, but were particularly widespread and noticeable in Mesoamerica.

The historical and anthropological literature of intentional deformation practices were reviewed and examined in Mayan culture. The Mayans performed different types of cranial deformations and used different techniques and instruments to deform children's heads. The most remarkable morphological alteration is seen in the flattening of the frontal bone. Some archeological investigations link deformation types with specific periods. This article provides a glance at the cultural environment of the Mayans and demonstrates the heterogeneity of this interesting cultural phenomenon, which has changed over time.

Permanent alterations of the body (such as dental modifications, scarification, mutilation, tattooing, body piercing, and other types of body art and ornaments) have been part of human culture from the beginning of history and have served as a way of differentiating oneself and one's tribe or clan from others. Lip piercing was practiced among African and American tribes and was a sign of social status. Vikings employed dental modification in order to look fearless and for aesthetic purposes. Induced deformation of the neonatal cranial vault is another example of these types of practices.

Artificial (also known as intentional) cranial deformation results from manual manipulation of the skull and/or from the application of a deforming apparatus. It is manifested in morphological changes to the cranial vault.1 Artificial deformation can take many forms; Gerszten and Gerszten7 discuss as many as 14 unique cranial shapes resulting from different methods of deformation. The practice of artificial cranial deformation has been documented on nearly every continent and may have begun as many as 30,000 years ago.19 The practice of deforming newborn heads was present in the whole of the American continent4 from North America to Patagonia, but cranial molding in neonates was most widely practiced in Mesoamerica. The Maya was the main Mesoamerican civilization, noted for its development of written language, architecture, calendars and mathematical systems.2

The Mayans are among the most studied ethnic groups in the world. In many collections of Mayan skulls recovered by archaeologists, artificial cranial deformation is a common feature, and some collections show a diversity of deformation styles.3 When Columbus saw some of the natives in the New World, he wrote that they had “foreheads and heads much broader than any people.”6

The historical precedents, mechanisms, different types, and role of cranial vault modification were analyzed among the Mayans.

To gain perspective on this issue, we examined the historical and anthropological literature on intentional deformation practices in Mayan culture in the collections of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in México and the National Autonomous University of México. Evidence of different types of artificially deformed skulls was sought from archaeological collections and previous anthropological investigations.

In the 16th century, Spanish chroniclers provided numerous detailed descriptions of cranial deformation, methods, and materials popular among the Mayan people. Some fascinating fragments of these records are translated and shared with the neurosurgical community in this article.

The Mayans lived in what is now the southeastern part of Mexico and northern parts of Central America.18 Pre-Hispanic Mayan culture is divided into 4 main periods: the Early Preclassic, Late Preclassic, Classic, and Postclassic. The Early Preclassic Maya is considered to date from 1400 to 1000 BC, the Late Preclassic period from 500 to 300 BC, the Classic period from AD 300 to 900 (when the Mayan cities reached their highest development), and the Postclassic period from AD 900 to 1540. We do not know at present precisely how the Mayan civilization originated. It almost appears as if it suddenly sprang into being, flourished, and then decayed just as suddenly. The practice of skull deformation seems to have been known from the earliest times.8 Among Mayans, the meaning of deformation was not only aesthetic but also religious and social.18

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo,11 a Spanish chronicler, reports an interesting conversation about deformation between one Mayan and an early Spanish missionary, who questioned the Mayan about the meaning of the custom. The native was asked why the heads of his countrymen were not like those of the Christians. He replied that when the children were born, their skulls were plastic and so they could easily be molded into shape, thus producing a boss on each side and a great depression in the middle of the head extending from one side to the other. “This is done because our ancestors were told by the gods that if our heads were thus formed we should appear noble and handsome and better able to bear burdens.”

According to Dembo and Imbelloni,4 the Mayans used hard implements in their deformation techniques. Several techniques existed, but the shaping of the head in neonates was carried out mainly in 2 ways: by compression of the head with pads and adjusted bindings and by restraining the child on specially designed cradles.10

The Spanish Franciscan Diego de Landa described how the Mayans deformed the heads of their children in 1572. He describes the women as bringing up their children with the greatest roughness and says that as a rule the children went naked. Scarcely 4 or 5 days after birth the child was stretched out upon a sort of little bed made of reeds or strips of other material, and then the head was placed between two boards, one at the back and one at the front. These were then pressed together and fastened. For days at a time the child was thus left in suffering; Landa adds that sometimes so much pain was caused that the children died, and that he himself saw one who had openings behind the ears, a condition that, it was reported, was not uncommon.5

mayan skull 1.jpeg
Photograph of Mayan skull exhibiting a typical erect deformation with its characteristic lambdoidal flattening. Reproduced with permission from V. Tiesler Blos.

Oblique deformation (Fig. 3) was attained without affecting the mobility of the child. Instead, paddles were applied directly to the head. This type of deformation had several variants. The pseudoanular, bilobulated, and trilobulated variants were all obtained when a frontal board was employed together with a system of bandaging.17

mayan skull 2.jpeg
Photograph of Mayan skull exhibiting a typical oblique deformation with the frontal bone sloped backward in a continuing oblique line with the nasal bones. Reproduced with permission from V. Tiesler Blos.

Some archeological investigations link deformation types with specific periods. Oblique deformation began during the Preclassic period (500–300 BC). During the Classic period, both the oblique form (with its pseudoanular variant) and the erect form are present. In the Postclassic period, the erect form was dominant, and it seems that the technique was widespread within the Mayan territory and had few variants.

During the Classic period, evidence shows that skull deformation was characterized by a distinct social pattern (Fig. 4). The general population could only perform erect deformations. However, if children were destined to become governors, priests, or warriors or attain another high-status position, they were given oblique deformations. High-ranking Mayan families of the Classic period differentiated themselves from the lower classes with their head shape. This social hierarchy can be seen in pottery, figurines, drawings, monuments, and architecture, where characters with oblique deformation are dominant.10 After the Classic period, this pattern was less pronounced, probably because of the influence of neighboring cultures.12,17 According to some authors and based on the analysis of artistic representations, oblique deformation was meant to shape a child's head to resemble the head of a jaguar, a sacred animal and symbol of power for the Mayans.13 Another hypothesis, based on analysis of paintings, is that the Mayans were trying to shape heads to resemble the head of the maize god, who was the symbol of fertility.16 Vera Tiesler performed one of the largest studies of Mayan skulls. She examined 175 deformed pre-Columbian Mayan skulls and was able to determine gender in 140 (69 female and 71 male). She found that 127 of these had the erect deformation and confirmed that the oblique shape was linked to elevated social standing. The obliquely deformed skulls were frequently accompanied by a postcoronal sulcus caused by bandages used to constrict the paddle against the forehead.17

The most remarkable morphological alteration is seen in the flattening of the frontal bone. The Mayas were naturally a brachycephalic people, and the custom of anteroposterior compression would promote this racial characteristic, causing the skull deformation to be displayed throughout life. The flattened skull is higher than nondeformed skulls of comparable age at death. Based on the figurines, paintings, and skulls that have been discovered, it seems that the greatest pressure seems to have been exerted upon the forehead. In many cases, the frontal bone sloped backward to an amazing extent, causing the nose to be in line with the retreating forehead, modifying the appearance of the entire face.

In the more isolated modern Mayan settlements, this custom is still practiced, though not to the same extent.

Cranial deformation practices are common in many areas of the world and are practiced for many reasons. The practice has mainly been documented in Egypt, Japan, South America, Mesoamerica, and some places in Europe.1

Anthropologists and other scientists have extensive knowledge of cranial deformation practices among ancient cultures. Some of the available information has been known for centuries. Although it is impossible to know the precise cultural environment, social organization, and religious conceptions that have led to this practice, it is clear that the practice is culturally influenced.1

Because of the plastic characteristic of the skull in newborns, skull modification was initiated during the first days of life and lasted for 2 or 3 years. This is done around the world to achieve specific adult head shapes.3

The first descriptions of cranial deformation among the Mayans were made by Spanish chroniclers in the 16th century. These descriptions (some of which are translated above) are historically invaluable,5,11 but most are superficial, highlighting the “primitive” parts of the custom, and are indeed interpretations. There is a lack of primary information directly from the Mayan culture.

The cranial deformation practice was forgotten in the literature from the 16th century to 1843, when John L. Stephens published Incidents of Travel in Yucatán.14 Stephens describes an artificially deformed skull that he found during an excavation. Based on skull collections and writings about the Mayan practice of cranial deformation, it is clear that the custom was at one time widespread.

The deformations were not uniform, probably because of the physiological responses of the children, the duration of the compression, and the particular characteristics of the deforming device. Despite the variety of forms found in the osteological evidence, Romano12says that only the oblique deformation is represented in the paintings of the classical Mayan period. This confirms that the cranial deformations were a permanently visible symbol of social affiliation.

Neurosurgeons have recently focused on the neurological effects of the deformations, but there is no scientific evidence of their having caused any neurological disability.9

From the point of view of the present, cranial deformation could seem to be a primitive practice. It may not be easy to understand why this custom was performed, but its practitioners found it socially and religiously appropriate. Doubtless, to the Mayans, the skull was a fundamental part of an individual's identity, and cranial deformation was elevated to the level of art.

With this paper, the authors are only providing a glance at the Mayan culture and are trying to present this valuable information to the neurosurgical community. Artificial cranial deformation constitutes a biocultural process. Our investigation describes the main deforming techniques and the resulting morphological expressions. This article demonstrates the heterogeneity of this interesting cultural phenomenon, which has changed through time. In the past century, interest in this ancient custom has surged, and neurosurgeons should not be excluded from this fascinating discussion.

See: https://doi.org/10.3171/2010.9.FOCUS10200

See: https://thejns.org/focus/view/journals/neurosurg-focus/29/6/2010.9.focus10200.xml

See: 1Anton SC: Intentional cranial vault deformation and induced changes of the cranial base and face. Am J Phys Anthropol79:253–267, 1989

  • 2
    Coe MD: The classic period. Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecsed 4 London, Thames and Hudson, 2002. 89–128
  • 3
    Comas J: Manual de Antropología FísicaMexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1957. 698
  • 4
    Dembo A, & Imbelloni J: Deformaciones intencionales del cuerpo humano de carácter étnicoBuenos Aires, Humanior, 1938. 329–337
  • 5
    Dingwall EJ: Artificial cranial deformation in Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. Artificial Cranial Deformation: A Contribution to the Study of Ethnic MutilationsLondon, John Bales, Sons & Danielson Ltd, 1931. 151–160
  • 6
    Dingwall EJ: Artificial cranial deformation in South America. Artificial Cranial Deformation: A Contribution to the Study of Ethnic MutilationsLondon, John Bales, Sons & Danielson Ltd, 1931. 192–225
  • 7
    Gerszten PC, & Gerszten E: Intentional cranial deformation: a disappearing form of self-mutilation. Neurosurgery37:374–382, 1995
  • 8
    Joyce RA: Performing the body in pre-Hispanic Central America. Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics33:147–165, 1998
  • 9
    Lekovic GP, , Baker B, , Lekovic JM, & Preul MC: New World cranial deformation practices: historical implications for pathophysiology of cognitive impairment in deformational plagiocephaly. Neurosurgery60:1137–1147, 2007
  • 10
    Márquez L: Playa del Carmen—una población de la costa oriental en el posclásico. Colección científica 119México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e História, 1982
  • 11
    Oviedo GF, Cap III. Oviedo GF: Historia Lib. XLIITernaux-Compans, 1959. Vol. IV:71, [unverified]
  • 12
    Romano A: Iconografía cefálica Maya. Memorias del Primer Coloquio Internacional de MayistasMéxico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, Centro de Estudios Mayas, 1987. 25–41
  • 13
    Sotelo LE, & Valverde MC: Los senores de Yaxchilán: un ejemplo de felinización de los gobernantes mayas. Estudios de Cultura Maya19:187–214, 1992
  • 14
    Stephens JL: Incidents of Travel in YucatánNew York, Dover Publications, 1963. 1:161–171
  • 15
    Steward TD: Notas sobre esqueletos humanos prehistóricos hallados en Guatemala. Antropología e Historia de Guatemala1:23–34, 1949
  • 16
    Taube KA: The Major Gods of Ancient YucatánWashington, DC, Dumbarton Oaks, 1992
  • 17
    Tiesler V: La costumbre de la deformación cefálica entre los antiguos mayas; aspectos morfológicos y culturalesMexico, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1998. 42
  • 18
    Tiesler V: La deformación cefálica intencional entre los mayas prehispánicos; aspectos morfológicos y culturales. Tesis de Maestría en ArqueologíaMexico, Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1994
  • 19
    Weidenreich F: On the earliest representatives of modern mankind recovered on the soil of East Asia. Bulletin of the Natural History Society of Peking 13:161–174, 1939

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The above article covers the Maya and their predilection for skull shaping, especially those belonging to the governor, priest, or warrior classes or were slated to attain another high-status position.

However, my studies on Nazi Germany have shown that Konrad Lorenz’s* works were important in developing the Nazi program designed to eradicate the ‘parasitic growth’ of inferior races and contained efforts to measure skulls, after death.

The government’s programs to insure the ‘German Volk’ maintained their superiority made racism almost unassailable. Although James C. King (in his 'The Biology of Race') claimed that ‘the holocaust … pretended to have a scientific genetic basis’, the position of the government and university elite of the time was so entrenched that few contemporary scientists seriously questioned it. The anti-Semitic attitudes of the German people were only partly to blame in causing the holocaust—only when scientific Darwinism was added to the preexisting attitudes did a lethal combination result in the T-4 Projects, Einsatzgruppen and the extermination camps - die Vernichtungslager, like Auschwitz, Treblinka and Chelmno.

The first step in an eugenic program was to determine which groups were genetically superior; a judgment that was heavily influenced by culture. The ideal traits were:
‘ … a human type whose appearance had been described by the race theorist Hans F.K. Günther as “blond, tall, long-skulled, with narrow faces, pronounced chins, narrow noses with a high bridge, soft hair, widely spaced pale-coloured eyes, pinky-white skin colour”‘.

Likewise, it was equally, important from the Nazi viewpoint, to prove the racial negative.

Two anthropologists, Bruno Beger and Hans Fleischhacker, arranged in June 1943 to perform anthropological measurements and studies on prisoners in the concentration camp Auschwitz. The sponsor of their project was the SS scientific organization Ahnenerbe, or “Ancestral Heritage,” a pet project of Himmler's.

This research foundation had been reporting directly to the SS leader Heinrich Himmler since it was founded in 1935. It promoted archeological, anthropological and historical research and participated in systematic theft of art, as well as experiments on human beings. Among others, the Munich and Strasbourg universities were enmeshed in the tentacles of Ahnenerbe and the SS.

Professor August Hirt worked for Ahnenerbe performing research considered to be of military importance, including human experiments in the concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof. Hirt had in mind to take the skull collection, which had been kept at the Strasbourger University since the 19th Century, and to update and expand it “in accordance with contemporary points of view,” as he explained in a later letter. At that time, “contemporary points of view” included, as part of the Nazi ideology, asserting the existence of a separate, distinct Jewish race. Therefore, the skull collection was to be expanded through the collection of skulls. From the very beginning, Hirt had planned to do this using criminal methods. Under the influence of Ahnenerbe, he came to a modification of the original project he had conceptualized early in 1942. Instead, he was to collect entire skeletons of concentration camp inmates for study. The victims for his studies would no longer be found in Russian POW camps, as Hirt had originally planned, but rather from among the prisoners in Auschwitz.

On April 28th, 1943, Sievers was notified by Adolf Eichmann that there was now “especially suitable material available,” and that, in this respect, “the present time would be particularly beneficial for these investigations.”

At Auschwitz, “These studies were comprised of head and facial measurements, ...with the help of definition charts and the measurement of countless morphological characteristics such as the shape of the head, forehead, back of the head, nose, mouth, ear, etc.”

See: https://www.die-namen-der-nummern.de/index.php/en/scientific-murders

We again see particular attention paid to the victim's skulls.

The great differences between the Mayas and the Nazis, when it came to skulls are these: the Maya pre-shaped the skulls of infants to prepare them for future parts in their civilization, while the Nazis eliminated prisoners to examine their skulls to further buttress the ideological bases of their racial dogma and Führer cult.

While it appears to the neurosurgeons that the skull shaping had no harmful effects on those subjected to it, for those who had their skulls defleshed by the SS Ahnenerbe it was fatal before the end process began.

* Konrad Lorenz, who expressed amazement that anyone could doubt evolutionary theory. He argued that evolutionary theory is the best antidote for belief in human equality and thus buttressed Nazi racial thought. Lorenz also argued that the Christian command to love your neighbor as yourself is an evolutionary imperative, too: “Since for us the race and Volk are everything and the individual person as good as nothing, this command is for us a completely obvious demand.” Lorenz clearly believed that evolutionary theory reinforced Nazi racial doctrines, including racial inequality and racial solidarity (collectivism). In 1939 the journal carried a chart showing the areas of research undertaken by the SS Reich League for Biology. The first category listed was phylogeny, and anthropology was included as a specialty under this category. Thus evolution, including human evolution, was front and center in their research program.

See: https://www.csustan.edu/sites/defau.../Weikart/Darwinism-in-Nazi-Racial-Thought.pdf

** Ahnenerbe or the Reich Ancestral Heritage Office: Unlike other states in which Occultists are accorded little respect, Nazi Germany made certain occult operations a part of the state, while repressing others with strict brutality. The S.S. itself had a network of Thule Society ritual which replaces Christian religion for S.S. Officers. Based in Old Prussian Paganism, with Nordic colorings, the S.S. has its own rites, festivals, rituals and burial customs. The “spiritual center” of the S.S. – dedicated entirely to the development of these and other public rituals, is the Ancestral Heritage Office.

Reichsfuhrer S.S., Himmler, is an avid student of the occult. An SS occult research department, the Ahnenerbe (Ancestral Heritage) was established in 1935 with SS Colonel Wolfram von Sievers at its head. Occult research took SS researchers as far afield as Tibet.

As soon as the Nazi movement had sufficient funds, it began to organize a number of expeditions to Tibet and these succeeded one another practically without interruption through the present day. It is conjectured that the Nazis wish to find Shambala, an ancient center of power which is said to be accessible through hidden tunnels in Tibet.

The strongest influence on Hitler in this regard was Dietrich Eckart (1868-1923). Most biographers have underestimated the influence that Eckart exerted on Hitler. He was the wealthy publisher and editor-in-chief of an anti-semitic journal which he called In Plain German. Eckart was also a committed occultist and a master of magic. As an initiate, Eckart belonged to the inner circle of the Thule Society as well as other esoteric orders.

There can be no doubt that Eckart – who had been alerted to Hitler by other Thulists – trained Hitler in techniques of self confidence, self projection, persuasive oratory, body language and discursive sophistry. With these tools, in a short period of time he was able to move the obscure workers party from the club and beer hall atmosphere to a mass movement. The emotion charged lay speaker became an expert orator, capable of mesmerizing a vast audience.

One should not underestimate occultism’s influence on Hitler. His subsequent rejection of Free Masons and esoteric movements, of Theosophy, of Anthrosophy, does not necessarily mean otherwise. Occult circles have long been known as covers for espionage and influence peddling.

See: https://occult-world.com/ahnenerbe/
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I have read a lot of articles on elongated skulls and understand there are opinions (evidence) supporting the bone manipulations techniques that can produce significant changes to the appearance of the human skull over time . But can these pictures (attached) really be attributed to such practices - and could a human brain survive such alterations ?
skul 2.jpg


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Greywolfe -

The manipulations take place in infancy before the skull bones harden and when they are the most pliable.

The first article was written by neurosurgeons, and it is their opinion that there was no major neurological damage arising from the process or processes involved.

I believe, looking at the images of the skulls we have both provided, that those individuals possessing such skulls lived to adulthood and to some age post 21, bolstering the opinion of the neurosurgeons who drafted the article.

Since, in the case of the Mayans, the process of skull deformation has been found as early as 1400-1000 BC, or BCE, perhaps there was an earlier undocumented learning curve.

However, this practice existed in all the continents and during various historical
periods. The earliest evidence of intentional cranial deformation dates back to
45,000 BC, based upon Neanderthal remains recovered from Shanidar Cave in
Iraq (Trinkaus 1982, 198). For Homo sapiens, this practice becomes widespread
through Asia with the movement of Scythians in the 8th and 7th century BC (Schi-
jman 2005, 945), while in the Americas, excavations of the Chinchorro culture
show evidence of the practice that existed 8,000 years ago (Allison et al. 1984,
156). The earliest written record of intentional cranial deformation was from
around 400 BC when Hippocrates described a group of people called the Macro-
cephales, due to their custom of head deforming (Von Winning 1968, 53). The
Hun population came into contact with Alan–Turkish peoples, who were in the
habit of performing cranial deformation in the area of present–day Tajikistan, and
it appeared in the Sarmatian, Alan, Gothic, Gepidic, and Hun populations
equally (Molnar et al. 2014).

In this part of Europe, the occurrence of ACD is connected to one of the most
interesting and highly enigmatic periods – The Migration period, or die große Völkerwanderung,
that brought new tribes, cultures and customs together and eventually led to the final end
of the Roman Empire.

See: https://www.researchgate.net/public...IAL_DEFORMATION_FROM_KIKINDA_MIGRATION_PERIOD

(Kikinda is an administrative area in Serbia.)

This practice is one of those quasi-religious/beauty/administrative major body adornments which will give the recipient a very noticeable and permanent body change, which marks the end user forever.
Mar 4, 2020
Normally the brain grows to fit and fill the cavity that cradles it. If at an infant age, when the skull is still rubber like, a deformation causing a larger volume, and everything's still growing at a high rate, it seems reasonable to me, that a larger volume would be grown, and that the brain would fill that cavity also.

I see no mystery at all. It's a body mass that grows with the rest of the body. Like the heart or liver growing to the right size thru infancy and childhood.

A brain might be only a part, of what we call intellect or personality. When certain areas of a normal brain get injured, we lose certain functions. So we relate those areas are necessary for those functions. But that might not be true. It might be that that area is only used in a normal brain, cause it was available for that use.

There have been brain scans done on people, who when infants, had very serious infections of the brain. Some showed that as much as 80% of the normal brain was dead. Many had 40-50% dead brains. Yet they had total muscle coordination, all senses, personality and education....as any normal person. What little area of the brain they had left, did all the work. No one could tell any difference.

It is quite amazing. And mysterious. And why I do not study living structures.
DanieleLotty -

Brien Foerster, if that is whom you're referring to concerning his claims about cranial size and the skulls being associated with the nephilim, draws the wrong conclusions, in his films and website. This, it would seem, must be one of his favorite topics since he has so many videos on it and features many images of so-called “elongated skulls” on his website.

There are several ways to modify the skull, such as by trepanation (a.k.a. trephanation) and dental adjustments, but the primary aspect of ACM, or artificial cranial modification, we’re concerned with in this article is that of intentionally shaping the cranium. That is to say, changing the shape of the skull in infancy in order to achieve a desired morphological outcome.

ancient race skull morton.jpeg
From Morton's Crania Americana

While this can be done unintentionally, such as through the practice of cradle boarding, the intentional practice involves binding and, often, bracing methods where the skull is wrapped tightly and perhaps braced with boards or sticks to create pressure in the desired direction of cranial growth.

When a child is new born to approximately age three, the skull is in a very pliable state, as are many bones in general. Firm, consistent pressure can direct cranial growth in different directions, depending on the method of binding. This has several profound affects on the overall cranium, as you’ll soon see. But first, it’s worth noting that this practice is one that is completely bizarre to modern, Western eyes. It is, in a word, alien.

Mangbetu woman and her child with head bindings.
Courtesy Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of
World Cultures

And I mean “alien” in it’s truest sense of the word but also in it’s metaphorical sense. The practice of skull shaping is foreign to the us. So foreign, in fact, it can be described as alien. It seems as if this is something from another world, and in many ways, it is. It isn’t possible for us to honestly know all the motivations of ancient Peruvians, or Bolivians. Or any of the hundreds of cultures throughout the world and at various times that practiced intentional skull shaping. There are ethnographic and archaeological accounts of binding the head for shaping in Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Australia, Melanesia, North America, Central America, and so on. Every continent on Earth has evidence of ACM.

But when we see the results of this particular practice of ACM, it stirs feelings. It is so bizarre, so foreign, such an alien practice to us, that we cannot come to terms with any reason good enough to do it. Particularly when you remember that this can only be done shortly after birth through the first three years or so of childhood before the skull is no longer pliable.

But by alien I do not mean literally from another planet.

Still, I definitely understand the desire to label these skulls with this in mind. And, for those who are devout Christians who think biblical narratives are to be taken seriously, I can kind of understand why talk about “nephilim” can come up with these skulls in the background of the conversation. But, I promise, this is not a practice archaeologists, anthropologists, and sociologists are completely unfamiliar with.

In fact, the part about the practice of ACM that is the most mysterious is a what as in “what motivated people to do it?” rather than a how, as in “how did these people get here?”, or “how did their heads get this way?”

Without knowing about the anthropological work done in Melanesia where the practice was witnessed first hand, or without knowing that an entire book was written on the topic in 2014; or that nearly a dozen researchers have tackled some aspect of ACM since the 1990s… [4] [5] [6] without knowing these things, it’s easy for the lay person–that person with a genuine, heartfelt interest history, archaeology, and ancient cultures–to get caught up in in the lore and narrative from a single person.

That’s what Foerster does best: he spins a tale, regardless of facts and truth, that fits a narrative he likes. A narrative that, coincidentally, sells. It sells books, videos, and tours.

The suture that separates the two parietal bones is called the sagittal and it can close and ultimately obliterate with age. Not in everyone and not at any specific year, but often between the ages of 50-60 years for the sagittal. Other sutures might close as early as age 18 or as late as age 70. Other sutures in the cranium are lambdoid, coronal, parieto-mastoid, parieto-temporal and baso-occiput with baso-sphenoid.

These sutures separate various bones in the skull. Seven cranial “plates” in all (to use Foerster’s terminology). And not only do they fuse with age, but they also fuse pathologically such as through craniosynostosis. This occurs when one or more sutures fuses early. There are two essential types of craniosynostosis: syndromic (caused by genetic syndromes like Apert, Pfeiffer, and Crouzon) and nonsnydromic (possibly caused by genetics but likely a result of environmental factors).

One of the factors in the environment that affects premature closure and obliteration of the sagittal suture is artificial cranial modification. Christine White found that most of the sagittal synostosis in their sample set was explained by artificial deformation. What White concluded was that the fusion and obliteration of the sagittal suture was a very likely outcome with the “right amount of force and the timing of its application.”

Foerster notes that the cranial capacity of the person he callously hefts for the camera is over 1500 cc and therefore much greater than that of humans. This is not only wrong, but Foerster’s methodology for obtaining a metric like cranial capacity could rightfully be called into question. Mostly because he doesn’t mention how he arrives at that number. But let’s assume he knew what he was doing.

In his 1992 study, J. Philippe Rushton, of the University of Western Ontario, found an average cranial capacity of 1494 cc among men (n=288) in the military [9]. To be an average, there were clearly more than one adult male with over 1500 cc. Burenhult [10] states that the 90% of humans fit in the range 1040-1595 cc, and that the extreme range is 900-2000 cc. Richard Milner [11] says, “Living humans have a cranial capacity ranging from about 950 cc to 1800 cc, with the average about 1400 cc.” Foerster either doesn’t know what he’s talking about (which seems likely) or he does, and he simply perpetuates a lie. The cranial capacity argument is one that Foerster makes over and over again in various videos and social media posts. It’s usually something along the lines of “elongated skulls have cranial capacities that are much greater than humans. In the video above, he states 1500 cc is “25% greater” than a human’s cranial capacity.

First, the skulls he so callously manhandles in his videos are human.
Second, their cranial capacity is not increased.

Samuel George Morton, who collected skulls with a notion that he could prove cranial capacity among white people was greater than that of people of color, left a rather large collection of skulls with the University of Pennsylvania. Fortunately, this collection’s data has been made available. In that collection I visually picked 34 Peruvian skulls that were visibly deformed or “elongated” as Foerster would say. Most were from Arica, Chile; three were from Pisco, Peru; and two were from Pachacamac, Peru. While Arica is in Chile, the skulls are from the Peruvian Period and the locality is less than 1,000 km from Paracas.

morton skull.jpeg
Morton Collection skull from Arica, Chile–
Peruvian Period. Courtesy Univ of Penn.

In using Morton’s “I.C.” metric, I converted from cubic inches to cubic centimeters and the mean cranial capacity was 1277 cc. The largest was 1655 cc for a 70 year old male skull of Arica (Object ID 1366). Still within the ranges given to us by Burenhult and Milner.

Foerster notes that the “eye-sockets are much larger,” the “nose seems much larger,” and that the “jaw is much larger than normal human beings.”

Perhaps he’s not wrong. It’s difficult to tell from a video and, of course, Foerster does not offer any metrics, show a scale, or provide any sort of comparative analysis. What are the normal ranges for eye-orbits, nasal concha, ethmoid bones, and mandibles? If you’re going to state a specimen exceeds an established norm, it helps to say what that established norm is and how it was established.

Here’s what is known about cranio-facial features among individuals who have undergone ACM deformations.

Prognathism is increased. that is to say, the amount protrusion of of the maxilla and face in general is noticeable. This is a compensatory development and very noticeable among those that practice even moderate degrees of deformation.

In the video, Foerster states, “nobody’s studied this since 1928.”

The context of “this” is clearly “the topic of “elongated skulls” The only other “this” he could have been referring is the specific skull he was showing the camera. That wouldn’t make sense unless Foerster were trying to say that this particular skull was the only one that was unusual. Since he’s been on video and quoted in the texts of his self-published books and social media as referring to many skulls deformed through ACM as “not normal,” etc., it’s safe to say he means “elongated skulls” in general.

But, regardless, the claim is patently and unequivocally false. There have been dozens of studies completed which focus on some aspect of Artificial Cranial Modification. I’ve listed but the barest few below. If anyone ever calls him on this claim directly, he’ll no doubt move the goal post to a specific population or some specific, obscure aspect of ACM.

I cannot imagine Brien Foerster coming clean or admitting that he had “no idea so many people studied this cultural phenomenon. Thanks for the bibliography!” There’s no way a reasoned person could write a book on the topic and not have noticed the plethora of research that includes ACM. He’d either have to be willfully ignorant or grossly incompetent.

To the lay person–that individual who really thinks ancient cultures and their sometimes strange or macabre practices are fascinating–I say don’t let a single person influence what you ultimately believe to be true. Think of what motives or agendas they might have. Challenge them with questions like, “how do you know?” and be willing to let evidence speak for itself. And by evidence, I mean that which can be tested or replicated, and can best explain without creating new, untestable assumptions.

Speculation is fine, but that only tells us what could be; not what it is.

For further reading, note the following:

  1. Tiesler, Vera (2014). The Bioarchaeology of Artificial Cranial Modifications New Approaches to Head Shaping and its Meanings in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and Beyond. New York: Springer.
  2. Blackwood, Beatrice; Danby, P.M. (1955). A study of artificial cranial deformation in New Britain. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 85 (1/2), 173-191.
  3. Tiesler, Vera (2014). The Bioarchaeology of Artificial Cranial Modifications New Approaches to Head Shaping and its Meanings in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and Beyond. New York: Springer.
  4. Blom, Deborah E. (2005). Embodying borders: human body modification and diversity in Tiwanaku society. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24, 1-24.
  5. Verano, John W.; Uceda, Santiago; Chapdelaine, Claude; et al. (1999). Modified human skulls from the urban sector of the pyramids of Moche, Northern Peru. Latin American Antiquity, 10(1), 59-70.
  6. and many others
  7. Parmar, Pragnesh; Rathod, Gunvanti B. (2012). Determination of Age By Study of Skull Sutures. International Journal of Current Research and Review, 4(20), 127-133.
  8. White, Christine (1996). Sutural Effects of Fronto-Occipital Cranial Modification. American Journal of Anthropology, 100, 397-410.
  9. Rushton, J. P. (1992). Cranial Capacity Related to Sex, Rank, and Race in a Stratified Random Sample of 6,325 U.S. Military Personnel. Intelligence, 16, pp. 401-413.
  10. Burenhult G. (1993). The first humans: human origins and history to 10,000 BC. New York: Harper-Collins.
  11. Milner, Richard (1990). “Cranial Capacity.” The Encyclopedia of Evolution: Humanity’s Search for it’s Origins. New York: Holt.
  12. Cheverud, James M., and James E. Midkiff (1992). Effects of fronto-occipital cranial reshaping on mandibular form. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 87(2):167–171.
  13. Cheverud, James M., Luci A. P. Kohn, Lyle W. Konigsberg, and Steven R. Leigh (1992). Effects of fronto-occipital artificial cranial vault modification on the cranial base and face. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 88(3):323–345.
  14. Anton, Susan (1989). Intentional cranial vault deformation and induced changes of the cranial base and face. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 79:253–267.
See: https://ahotcupofjoe.net/2017/04/elongated-skulls-mystery-really-isnt-mystery/

While I can't say where you're coming from, it appears from the above that the elongated skulls, or ACM, are man made cranial issues, not other worldly beings, space "aliens", or any other strange races of people. Additionally, these ACM skulls have been studied quite often.
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