Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Monday, February 10, 2014

More on Elongated skulls in America...

On red or fair haired elongated skulled people in Peru. Artificial and naturally ocurring skull deformation...

WWe know that cranial deformation is widespread across the globe, [9] and that American natives did it at the time of Spanish discovery and conquest.

The map below from Juan R. Munizaga (1987) Deformación craneana intencional en América, clearly shows that it was widespread and very ancient practice: [8]

skull deformation map Americas

Munizaga, author of the map, points out in his work [8] a very unusual hypothesis that:

"in only two of the cases can we be reasonably be sure of an extra-American origin: a) The annular, oblique tabular and erect tabular types found among the people of the Northwest coast of North America [...] which entered our continent very few centuries ago [...] and b) the brifronto-vertico-occipital deformation. This type, is very rare and exclusively found in Southeastern USA [...] is depicted in ceramic figures of a Taoist monastery in China dating from the early Christian Era [...] accepting an extra-American origin, we propose a general hypothesis that this custom was introduced by travellers from the Far East..." [8].

Nevertheless, I want to point out a comment published in 1855 by Rivero regarding deformed crania as a mutation and not due to artificial causes: [1]

Oblong skulls were due to a mutation

"there is more: the same configuration is found among unborn children and we have become convinced of this truth after seeing the fetus found in the womb of a pregnant woman's mummy, which we found in a cave in Huichay, two leagues from Tarma and which is now in our collection. Professonr d'Outrepont, one of the leading celebrities in the science of obstertrics has assured us that this fetus is seven months old. It belongs, according to the very pronounced configuration of its skull, to the tribe of the Huancas. In plate VII of the Atlas is this interesting and decissive proof against those favoring mechanical action as the only and exclusive cause of the phrenologic shape of the peruvian race... [1]"

The image below depicts the fetus mentioned by Rivero above:

fetus with elongated skull
Plate VII. Rivero (1855). Seven month fetus with elongated skull. From [1]

Although one case is not enough to support a mutation that produces elongated skulls, and we could also assume that the fetus described by Rivero had suffered some intra-uterine disease that caused that oddly shaped skull.

Nordenskjöld reported that a baby was born in Bolivia with an unnaturally long head, but the midwife was not worried, they could shape it at will and make it rounder ("In Ascencion wurde ein Kind mit unnatürlich langem Kopfe geboren" = "In Ascencion a child was long with unnatural Head born".[5]

The above shows two things: (1) oblong skulls ocurr naturally and (2) Amerindians were good at re-shaping skulls.

Nevertheless, Rivero's opinon was repeated later by : " A. L. Kroeber (1944), reporting on pre-Inca crania from further north on the same coast, stated that the majority of undeformed Early Chimu skulls were long. Thus, these earliest pyramid builders of Peru were not identical with their historic successors, all of whom are round-headed... " [2]

Since I am not a specialist I can hardly judge how Kroeber detected that ancient Early Chimu skulls were "long". But if his research was sound, it could point out to some genetic trait.

If it has a genetic cause, perhaps DNA sequencing could shed some light on the matter (and I mean "real" sequencing, and not the kind I posted about yesterday).

The Paracas mummies had elongated skulls (in my opinion, artificially elongated skulls), and possessed oddly colored hair:

Light colored Amerindian hair

Mildred Trotter examined the hair from the Paracas Mummies, and described it as: "... the sample in each case was interspersed with very light yellow hairs which may be assumed to have been white. In general, the color was a rusty brown and gave the appearance of having faded..." [3]

She also noted that the hair of two of the mummies "was quite definitely wavy" and was straight in the others. Waviness is related to the hair's shape of its cross-section. Amerindian and Asian hair tends to have a circular cross-section (straight hair) while Caucasian hair is more oval (tending to be wavy). Trotter reported that "The cross-section form shows so much divergence between the different mummies that they cover all divisions of hair form" [3], that is Amerindian - Asian - European.

The area of the cross-section of Paracas mummies was 30% less than the average value for Amerindians. (European cross-section surface is smaller than Native American surface area): "The size of the hair was much smaller than has been found for other Indians..." [3]

Realizing that this may place the Paracas people outside of the Amerindians, she added that post-mortem dehydration could account for changes in cross-sectional shape as well as its surface area. The brown or reddish colored hair could also be the consequence of a dark black hair having faded over time. The fair hair was due to a darkening white hair.

Trotter's explanations are very reasonable and is the most likely cause for odd colored hair among the Paracas people.

However, reddish wavy hair is not unknown among the Mataco natives from Argentina's Chaco region (northeastern Argentina), see Pelleschi below: [7]

"The hair is straight, but in some -very few- individuals I have noticed it slightly wavy, almost curly, I can not say if due to art or nature [...] The hair is jet black among the adults, white among the elders [...] reddish often among the boys until the age of 10 or 12 years: a curious thing, which brings to my memory Salles theory, according to which primitive men must have had red hair. So here we would have a case of atavism..."[7]

We can forgive Pelleschi for his Victorian mentality (after all, he wrote that in 1897).

I am always interested in red-haired people outside of Europe because it may indicate a link to Neanderthal genes, and if in America, it may hint at an early migration of Neanderthals into America followed by admixture there with Homo sapiens, once they reached that continent.

A closing word on Deformed skulls

Cieza de León, a Spanish conquistador and chronicler noted that along the coast of Ecuador (in the 1540s), the newborn baby's head was pressed between two boards (tablas) so that by the time he reached the age of four or five his head was either long or broad. They did this because it made them healthier and better able to work. [4]

Curiously, another reason is given for the practice of cranial deformation: Dr. Alvarado cites Juan Manuel Balcazar and his book about "The History of Medicine in Bolvia" where he states that according to Pachacutec: "The Inca [emperor] Manco Kapac decreed that the head of newborn babies be tied so that they grow up with mental handicaps because indians with large round heads were very enterprising and specially very disobedient". He wanted them to have long sloping heads to make them obedient and submissive.[6]

Many Paracas skulls have holes neatly cut into them, these trepanations are be explained by Dr. Alvarado:

Skull deformation caused plenty of problems according to Dr. Alvarado. It led to intra-craneal hypertension which can be noted due to the presence of the so called digital impressions seen on some of the deformed skulls. This custom led to mental alterations, reduced IQ, epileptic fits, head aches, etc. And (this is very interesting) may have been the reason that some of the skulls were trepanated, that is, opened, as a kind of cure (perhaps to let the "demons" of illness out). Though some alien-mongers suggest hi-tech medicine was required for these skull opening operatins, they were done under primitive conditions with obsidian tools, and the surprising fact is that up to 60% of the patients survived the operation. [6]

Based on all of the above, it is quite weird to suggest that the Paracas people had a mtDNA unlike any other human one, displaying mutations not found in any animal (see yesterday's post please). The Paracas mummies were normal humans with artificially deformed skulls. The light color of their mummies hair may be due to some genetic trait or, simply the aging of ancient hair which bleached it. There was probably some genetic mutation that caused occasional oblong heads among Amerindians as reported by Rivero, Kroeber and Nordenskjöld, but its prevalence among the native Americans is unknown.


[1] Mariano Eduardo de Rivero, (1855) Antigüedades Peruanas. pp 32
[2] Thor Heyerdahl and Geoffrey Ashe, (1971). Isolationist Or Diffusionist?: The Bearded Gods Speak Pall Mall press.
[3] Mildred Trotter, (1943). Hair from Paracas Indian Mummies. Am. J. Phyg. Anthrop., n.s., 1 (1) : 69-76.
[4] Cieza de León, P., Ballesteros, M., [Ed.], (2000). La crónica del Perú (1553). Madrid:Dastin S. pp. 177
[5] Nordenskjöld, E., (1910). Indianer und Weisse in Nordostbolivien p. 153
[6] Dr. Ramiro Alvarado. Trepanaciones y Deformaciones Craneales en Tiwanaku, Sociedad Boliviana de Cirugía
[7] Pelleschi, Juan, (1897). Los Indios Matacos y su Lengua. Part I. Ch. II. pp 175

Further Reading

[8] Juan R. Munizaga (1987). Deformación craneana intencional en América. Revista Chilena de Antropología No 6. 1987, 113-147.

[9] Dingwall, Eric, (1931). Artificial Cranial Deformation London.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

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