Non-Human Fetus? Nope, as Human as You

Zulu woman. Public domain.

On various social media websites, Brien Foerster has begun advertising a new video you can rent on Vimeo. In some of the comments defending assertions that these were non-human, Foerster posted the following video from YouTube. We can, therefore, assume this is among the best evidence he has to share. Let’s review it.

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Foerster opens the video by noting that we’ll be looking at the remains of a “7-9 month old fetus.” Ken-the-radiologist then refers to the remains of the infant as a fetus.

The use of the term “fetus” at the outset can only mean one of two things:

  1. Foerster and/or Ken-the-radiologist are ignorant to human anatomy and development, or;
  2. Foerster is lying to the viewer in order to create hyper-interest in what is really just a fascinating cultural practice.

Fetus?

A “fetus” is defined as the “unborn offspring of a mammal.”

Regardless of which of the above is true, Foerster wants the viewer to think this is the way the infant looked prior to birth. Why is this important? Because of his sensational, and utterly incorrect statement that “this proves that there were people in the past who genetically had elongated heads…”

The worst mistake Foerster made was letting Ken-the-radiologist actually speak. Much of what he said was wrong, self-contradictory, and simply ignorant. Foerster seems to know Ken-the-radiologist isn’t a great choice since spares no opportunity to talk up his qualifications and alleged expertise in human anatomy, disease, etc.

First Ken-the-radiologist states this is a fetus (an unborn child) but then states it could have died at an age upwards of 9 months. But then he goes back to saying it could be still-born. He really has no idea. The clearest indication that Ken-the-radiologist isn’t qualified is when he says, “…the result of in-breeding or the breeding of something with human not compatible…”

How does that work, Ken? How do humans breed with (ostensibly) non-compatible mammals? Do radiologists where Ken is from not have to attend medical school?

He babbles on about “human-like” and “non-human-like” characteristics, finally zeroing in on the “elongated skull.” As if humans didn’t engage in cranial modifications that include skull shaping. This extremely well documented and studied cultural practice of Peru, Chile, Bolivia (and all over the world at varied periods of history) appears completely unknown to Ken-the-radiologist. Nothing wrong with that. I doubt it’s required reading to earn a degree as a radiologist.

But Foerster knows. And he sells the mysterious nature of it like a Seattle fishmonger. He works hard to keep it fresh, wraps it in a nice, neat package, and throws it to you for your money. In his recent video on Vimeo, he’d like to rent it to you for $0.99 for just 24 hours. For a 17 minute video. Look out Netflix.

About the child

Foerster and his pal have no visible or audible qualms about treating the remains of this child with such callous disregard. If it weren’t behind glass, they would no doubt have pawed over it the way he has other human remains in past videos. The spectacle of it all is appalling and deserves at least some kind words about the individual that, for less than two-years, was someone’s son or daughter. Or the people who lost this loved one, whom they probably thought would be interred for all time only to be unceremoniously plucked from her resting place for public display.

There’s no indication that any descendant populations were consulted by the museum and certainly not Foerster, but perhaps they were. Perhaps they’re happy that their culture is being understood and recognized–that it is not being forgotten to time. Too bad Foerster doesn’t take a moment to acknowledge them.

Making some educated guesses on the length of the femur of the child (it seems to be about an inch at the diaphysis, or the main, long part of the bone excluding the epiphyses, which are the joint ends), this infant could be as much as 20 postnatal months old.

The interpretive card in the glass is very likely based upon the analysis of a genuine expert. Neither Foerster nor Ken-the-radiologist bother to read it for the viewer. The museum’s narrative is in both Spanish and English, with the English version reading:

“Skeletal remains of a child under two years. the different fractures and depressions presented in the skull indicate the possibility of having been caused by improper instrumental handling in the cranial deformation process.”

In other words, someone, properly trained in skeletal pathology (I’m guessing not Ken-the-radiologist), actually studied the remains in a laboratory, made skeletal measurements and carefully observed the cranial bones, and concluded that the cause of death was possibly due to the improperly applied wraps and/or braces during the process of shaping the skull per their cultural custom.

Artificial cranial modification of this type is performed on infants under two years of age. After about two years, the cranial sutures begin to fuse and the cranial bones are no longer pliable.

This is not a fetus.

There is no good reason to believe that it was born with an “elongated skull.”

This appears to be an example of a mystery-monger making a buck off of the innocent unkowing of good, otherwise intelligent people.

Read my other entries on artificial cranial modification and skull shaping below for more information and sources of genuine professionals who have explored this bizarre (by Western standards) yet fascinating cultural practice.

 

The Elongated Skulls Mystery Really isn’t a Mystery at All

Artificial Cranial Modification: Head Shaping

Hair Color and Mummification

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About Carl Feagans 336 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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