Alien Skulls? Not even close!

If you’ve ever spent any time browsing a UFO forum or website, you’ll eventually run into a link or claim that the ancient Mesoamericans and Inca either were aliens (this was a theme exploited by the latest Indiana Jones movie, written by James Rollins), or worshiped aliens as gods. The “proof” is usually a skull much like the one you see depicted here. And it does look like an alien skull! But it’s actually a well-understood process of artificial cranial modification practiced at some point on every populated continent in the world.

The recent issue of Archaeology (Tiesler 2009) has a sidebar that briefly describes the practice of modifying the shape of the human skull by the Maya. 90 percent of the skulls recovered at Maya sites show evidence of being artificially shaped.

Mothers began deforming their children’s skulls shortly after birth by applying devices such as splints, cradleboards, or tightly wound cloth. The practice of head shaping was a regular part of pre-Hispanic life and may have been required for a child’s integration into society, which often took the form of hetz mek, or naming celebrations.

The practice of shaping the head was a body modification that existed from the Preclassic through the Classic periods in Mesoamerica, which ranged from 2000 BCE to 250 CE (Preclassic) and 250 CE to 900 CE (Classic). And was used to show membership in a particular “family or community group.” By the Classic period, the shapes began to take on a variety: slanted like the Maize God‘s head; flattened foreheads; elongated up; formed into two distinctive globes (imagine the general form of a pair of buttcheeks).

From our cultural perspective, the practice seems barbaric and horrible when we consider that this was being done to children without their consent and imposed upon them forcibly. But then, perhaps the same will be said of some of our own practices by future civilizations: “look at how barbaric these people were! They cut the genitalia of infant boys and forced adolescents to wear wired attachments to shape their teeth!”

As modifications to mark social status and rank, the preoccupation with shaping the heads of both males and females among the ancient Maya isn’t really hard to understand, if only because it isn’t the result we find objectionable, but the method of obtaining that result. We can look among each other and see all sorts of pierced tongues and lips, tatoos in painful locations, gold teeth (the Maya were very in to dental modification as well), and so on, each of which are used to promote status or define the individual as his or her own agent.

But did the Maya simply see this as a social practice? Were they only defining themselves as common to a clan or family?

The Maize God
A bust of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal

Or were these body modifications a form of worship or a demonstration of piety to their gods? The Maize God is depicted in Maya art as having a slanted head and foliage for hair. As does the Maya ruler, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, the ruler Erich von Daniken claimed was an “ancient astronaut” in his book, Chariots of the Gods?—he incorrectly attributed the design on the lid of Pakal’s sarcophagus as an “astronaut” in his ship’s chair, blasting off to space. Instead this is Pakal descending into Xibalba through the mouth of a serpent. Pakal is shown on his sarcophagus lid and several busts, reliefs, and murals as having a shaped cranium, slanted up and back. The photos below show the Maize God on the left and Pakal on the right.

Also, many examples of Maya art probably weren’t really “art” at all but, rather, a way of revering their gods -depicting them in full regalia. Pakal was the personification of the Sun and Maize Gods on Earth, perhaps in much the same way Egyptian rulers were personifications of gods like Atum and Horus.

Women also based their appearance on the gods (Miller 2009) and they made use of blue pigment, stylized hair, and large, obvious bits of jewelry.

If the Maya modified their appearance out of piety, they also did so out of vanity and were concerned with looking youthful, healthy and elegant. Pakal reached his 80s before dying, but every depiction of him, all the way to the end, shows him to be a young, vibrant man.

Miller, Mary (2009). Extreme makeover: how painted bodies, flattened foreheads, and filed teeth made the Maya beautiful. Archaeology, 62 (1), p. 36-42

About Carl Feagans 398 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.


  1. very interesting indeed. there are other practices of shaping the human body in various cultures – i’m thinking of some of the practices in Africa to shape the ear lobes, the lips or the necks, but also those in Asia to shape the female foot. i wonder if there are equivalent practices in the Western sphere.

  2. The skull you are showing looks very human and horribly and deliberately deformed in the first year of life. (Why did so many American ethnic groups deform the skulls of their young?)

    This skull; however, shapes up as some sort of human/alien mix.
    The skeleton was found in a cave in Mexico cradled by the skeleton of a young human woman (child’s mother?).

  3. The skull linked in the video found at the website provided by my new found woo-woo friend is that of a deformed child. Lloyd Pye is a kook and a scam artist -his site, the last I looked, asks for donations to obtain further DNA testing. I can’t imagine the university anthropology department that wouldn’t want to take on the project at no expense to Pye. It would make for a good graduate thesis project, showing the presence of hydrocephaly or some other, similar, condition.

    Those that assert an “alien skull” in this case have done little to know actual science. They’ve demonstrated their preconceived bias and the conclusion they seek by fallaciously naming it “starchild” and they assert premises about the skull and congenital diseases that simply aren’t true.

    There are, indeed, cases of hydrocephaly that mimic the features on this skull. The DNA retrieved showed nothing but human DNA and both X and Y chromosomes were shown to be present, identifying the child as a male. A human male, since this is also evidence of both a human mother and human father. There is no reason to assume that reproduction between species, particularly humans and other species, is either probable or possible.

    To sum, my new-found woo-woo friend provided the rest of us with a very good example of the type of mystery-mongering claims that exist, purporting to be “archaeology” or “science,” but, in reality, bearing no genuine semblance of either.

  4. Hmmm, ok.

    Then can someone please explain to me, how it is that the volume of such skulls are beyond that of the average volume of a human skull?

    I think it is important to ask ourselves here, why ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and Egyptians developed techniques to reshape their heads in the first place? What was there purpose in doing it? And why did civilizations, literally worlds apart, desire the same features?

  5. The skull volumes of shaped skulls are not different than that of non-shaped ones. The shape of the cranial vault is altered but the brain develops to fit the new shape. This can only be done with children since the cranial bones aren’t yet fused. Even with cranial neoplasia, an abnormal proliferation of bone and cellular growth which can misshape the skull over time due to pathology like tumors, the cranial vault compensates by enlarging elsewhere when bone grows into the endocranial region. At least it has in subjects I’ve observed.

    As to why, I’m thinking of writing a paper on this as well as dental modification with an eye to researching what can be inferred from ancient beliefs. Perhaps this will be something I can reprint on this blog once completed.

  6. In addition, cranial deformation was not only practiced by Egyptians, Mesoamericans and Peruvians. There are examples from all over the world (including Europe), including many people that continued to practice into the 20th century (See Dingwall 1931). I believe the Aztec were banned from the practice by the Spanish. Additionally, I concur with what cfeagans said about the overall cranial capacity being similar to normal.

  7. The elongated skull is that of an ancient reptilian ruler.
    You should examine the archeological record. It strongly suggests reptilians ruled ancient Mesopotamia since at least 1000 B.C. ASSYRIAN KING SENNACHERIB IS DEPICTED AS A REPTILIAN-HUMANOID IN THE BAS-RELIEF(REIGNED 704-681 B.C.)


  8. only preposterous for those who didnt study the topic of “holy/unholy” (depends on p.o.v.), “wise” and powerful snakes and dragons (which are both reptiles) EVERYWHERE throughout history. this idea was preposterous for me too 10 years ago, but sorry…not anymore…

    mayas, egyptians, sumerians, babylonians, chinese, christians (see bibles genesis story), indians, cambodians, … – snake-gods EVERYWHERE!

    just to name a few of of these occurances:
    – snake depictions on pharao heads
    – Quetzalcoatl (meaning: “feathered-serpent”)
    – indias “Naga”
    – snake on cross (old depiction of the christian God).
    – dragon stories everywhere in ancient cultures
    (where the heck did they come from and where did they go?)
    – dragons on app. 80% of all family coat of arms througout old europe
    – chinese dragons (see their new year celebrations – 100(!)ft. paper dragons…cool, hm?)
    – Aesculapius (ancient greece)
    (today on every business sign of doctors and pharmacists)
    – Mami Wata (africa, wiki: snake = symbol of divination and divinity in many African cultures)

    so…snakes (=reptiles) as bearer of knowledge, wisdom even divinity…how the heck did they manage that? after all most people are not very fond of them. so how did they get this status?

    I suggest you start your thorough search with this article, which gives you a pretty neat overview:
    wiki: wiki/Serpent_(symbolism)

    so the question remains:
    why the heck would a mother tamper with the head of her own baby to achieve such a deformation. my mother, and hopefully yours too, didnt have that urge – and it must have been a VERY STRONG one.
    dont you agree at least on that point?

  9. but i still dont understand y sum1 wooput their child throght that to change the shape of their skull… i know its tradition and all that but i guess ill never understand

  10. So, every and all (except Christianity) culture and religion saw the serpent as a positive influence or(god)?? Quick question…can a certain religion play reverse psychology on it’s people???

  11. seems like ancient reptilian aliens not only shaped our culture but also tried to teach us to advance our intellectual abilities by expanding and elongating our neocortex for a higher center of gravity which is believed to encourage less pressure on the skull and and easier way to create “unique ideas” through a different atypical neurology.

    very nice.

  12. @ anonymous:
    Or… they were just people who figured out that if they put pressure on the cranial vault at an early age they could manipulate the shape. After all, humans have been modifying their bodies with tattoos, piercings, foot-binding, circumcisions (male & female), etc. for thousands of years.

  13. @krampus
    I agree to your argument that the dragon/snake stories had to come from somewhere. Lets look at a dragon, then look at a dinosaur. See the similarity? It is indeed a very logical way that stories of big reptiles(dragons) pass through generations. They have to come from somewhere. It is a common belief that dinosaurs died out before humanity was created/evolved. What make it such a common belief?
    The most reliable way of dating bones are carbon dating which has a maximum range of around 14000 years!

    One of the most reliable history texts in the world pre christ, is the bible. If you look away from all the religious parts, most of the historical texts in the bible fits with archelogical finds. In the bible there are actually two reptiles described which does not fit any other animal alive.

    Behemoth has the following attributes according to Job 40:15-24
    Some bible texts translates the Behemoth to elephant or hippopotamus, but they really dont fit the description, now do they?
    * It “eats grass like an ox.”
    * It “moves his tail like a cedar.” (In Hebrew, this literally reads, “he lets hang his tail like a cedar.”)
    * Its “bones are like beams of bronze,
    His ribs like bars of iron.”
    * “He is the first of the ways of God.”
    * “He lies under the lotus trees,
    In a covert of reeds and marsh.”

    The other beast described:
    Leviathan has the following attributes according to Job chapter 41, Psalm 104:25,26 and Isaiah 27:1. This is only a partial listing—just enough to make the point.

    * “No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up.”
    * “Who can open the doors of his face, with his terrible teeth all around?”
    * “His rows of scales are his pride, shut up tightly as with a seal; one is so near another that no air can come between them; they are joined one to another, they stick together and cannot be parted.”
    * “His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth.”
    * “Though the sword reaches him, it cannot avail; nor does spear, dart, or javelin. He regards iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; slingstones become like stubble to him. Darts are regarded as straw; he laughs at the threat of javelins.”
    * “On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear.”
    * Leviathan “played” in the “great and wide sea” (a paraphrase of Psalm 104 verses 25 and 26—get the exact sense by reading them yourself).
    * Leviathan is a “reptile [a] that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27:1)

    [a] Note: The word translated “reptile” here is the Hebrew word tanniyn. This shows that “Leviathan” was also a “tanniyn” (dragon).

    As the bones from dinosaurs shows, they were mighty beasts. Who, without the knowledge we have today, would not rever and fear such animals?

    Secondly about your question about why a mother would deform her childs skull. Ever heard of jews? They cut of a part of the boys penis. Now why would any mother do that to her son? Religious belief. Even worse are the circumcicion of girls… so why wouldn’t the maian’s or egypt’s people do the same to get what ever it was their religions thought them to.

    • @Sig
      Normally I mark apparently proselytizing comments as spam, but since you made several unfounded and utterly wrong claims based on the Christian mythology, I thought I should take a moment to rip it up.

      I agree to your argument that the dragon/snake stories had to come from somewhere. Lets look at a dragon, then look at a dinosaur. See the similarity? It is indeed a very logical way that stories of big reptiles(dragons) pass through generations. They have to come from somewhere. It is a common belief that dinosaurs died out before humanity was created/evolved. What make it such a common belief?

      The most reliable way of dating bones are carbon dating which has a maximum range of around 14000 years!
      Not only is your understanding of maximum resolution of radiocarbon dating wrong, but your implication here is that humans were present with dinosaurs to observe and thus pass down their existence to successive generations through oral and, later, written traditions, including biblical mythology.
      You’re at least partially correct that there is a bit of evidence that supports the notion that ancient myths of dragons could have some origin in dinosaurs. For at least some cultures, such as the ancient Chinese, this is likely the case. There exists, even today, a tradition of searching for and selling “dragon bone” as an oral and topical medicine. These are the bones of dinosaurs, some of which probably have the look of dragons, frozen in rock.

      In the Aegean and throughout Anatolia, the myths of dragons (and griffins) seem to have an origin also in the fossil record, but with fossilized giraffes and elephants. There are writings of Pliny (the Younger or the Elder, I can’t recall which), that seem to detail these “dragons” and “griffins” who guarded the mountains, protecting the gold that would-be-prospectors hoped to obtain in antiquity (perhaps 700 – 300 BCE).

      One of the most reliable history texts in the world pre christ, is the bible. If you look away from all the religious parts, most of the historical texts in the bible fits with archelogical finds.

      This doesn’t actually hold true. There are several texts that have far more reliability than early Hebrew mythology. Indeed, many of these texts precede Hebrew mythology and are, apparently, the origin for it in some cases. The Armarna Letters are an example of such historical documents, written not as propaganda or a means to promote superstition, rather they were letters written between kings and mayors of cities and city-states. Or between other officials, spouses of officials, and subjects of officials. They detail many historical events through happenstance in the course of asking for more grain, chariots, bows, or the promise of marriage. Biblical mythology, however, is very purposeful in its propaganda and dogmatic rules. Non-religious parts are provided almost always as a means of supporting the superstition and dogma which are central to it. Moreover, very little of the bible actually has any correspondence to archaeological evidence. In fact, the supporting evidence in the archaeology seems to be inversely proportional to the amount of extraordinary-ness a given story in the bible has. In other words, the more fantastic the tale, the less likely there is any archaeology to support it. If you say, “the bible says people fished and lived at the Sea of Galilee,” then we can say there is a lot of evidence to support it. If, however, you say, “the walls of Jericho were blown down by Joshua’s trumpet and the proof was found,” you’re full of it. There were walls. They were only a couple feet high (useful for flood-control or animal-control, but not defense) and they were in use at a time before the alleged Israelite Conquest.

      In the bible there are actually two reptiles described which does not fit any other animal alive.

      Lots of mythical texts describe “reptiles” that are outlandish. The Hebrew behemoth has its roots, probably, in the Tiamat of the Enum Elish. Perhaps I can be convinced to post a comparison of the gods of Akkad with the later gods of Canaan and the Jews.

      As the bones from dinosaurs shows, they were mighty beasts. Who, without the knowledge we have today, would not rever and fear such animals?

      Which brings me back to your apparent assumptions about dinosaurs and humanity. Radiocarbon dating is actually good to 50,000 years at a maximum (with a margin for error that obviously increases the further back in time we go). Humanity can be said to be between 150,000 and 200,000 years old, depending on the dating method used, but rest assured, none of these methods include radiocarbon (the measurement of the 14C isotope) at these ages. The sorts of dating we might find in use here would be molecular, potassium-argon, argon-argon, paleo-magnetic, etc. I won’t bother presenting a lecture on these methods here, instead, I’d recommend a good geology or paleoanthropology text book (Richard Klein’s The Human Career is fine example of the latter that gives very detailed and complete discussions of these and more).

      But all that really doesn’t matter since there are many, many reasons why it is known through science that dinosaurs existed far, far earlier than Homo sapiens (or any other bipedal primate). The last of the dinosaurs died out 64 million years ago, probably as a result of complications following a meteor/asteroid impact. Humans have been on the planet only for the last 150,00 years or so. We’ve been here only about .25% of the time since dinosaurs have been gone. The mountains of evidence that support this is overwhelming, it comes from multiple sources, and the data are often independent of each other rather than dependent, giving a conclusion that is a comprehensive consensus among multiple disciplines of science (astronomy, geology, biology, paleontology, anthropology, etc.).

      Secondly about your question about why a mother would deform her childs skull. Ever heard of jews? They cut of a part of the boys penis. Now why would any mother do that to her son? Religious belief. Even worse are the circumcicion of girls… so why wouldn’t the maian’s or egypt’s people do the same to get what ever it was their religions thought them to.

      The Mayan’s and Egyptians don’t appear to have engaged in cranial modifications for any other reason than aesthetic appeal, quite unlike the superstitions of early Christians and Jews who mutilated the penises of baby boys (Rabbis bite the foreskin of, interestingly enough). Modern appeal of this practice appears, however, to be largely one of aesthetics. I’ve done a fair bit of research on the topic of cranial modification, which can be found in this post: Cranial Modification: Head Shaping.

  14. This reminds me of how Mediterranean civilizations believed there were Giant Cyclops that walked the Earth. When really all it was, was a misunderstanding when discovering a mammoth’s skull.

    Sorry if you touched on this already. I admit to skimming through some of the commentary.. *I appauld your patience*

  15. cfeagans, I ask of you to please stop using the term “woo-woo”. It’s extremely childish. I don’t care what you believe, if aliens are real or not, or if you’re the admin. Don’t resort to name-calling. It’s unproffessional for someone who claims to be so intelligent. I usually expect better of people who write articles like experts. Your article is great, but don’t resort to childish behavior. I honestly can’t take anyone who uses terms like “woo-woo” seriously. The word itself sounds utterly ridiculous and definitely doesn’t sound like it should come from the mouth or keyboard of an intelligent person. I do not seek to insult you in any way, I just don’t want other people to disregard what you say because of such a thing. You seem very bright, but alas, one insulting term can ruin someone’s credibility. It happens to the best of people.

    • I ask of you to please stop using the term “woo-woo”. It’s extremely childish.

      I think I’ll decline your request. While I agree that the term “woo-woo” can be offensive, it would only be so to those for whom it applies or to those who are sympathetic to “woo.” There are many types of “woo,” from UFO-woo, to homeopathic-woo, to Moon-hoax woo.

      Is “woo-woo” insulting? Sure. But so is the suggestion by proponents of woo that their ideas should be taken seriously. And, whether we like it or not, ridicule has its place. It serves to dissuade others from participating in socially unacceptable behavior. I use the term woo in the comment threads of a post I wrote with the express intent to dissuade others from posting their woo. If they have reasoned opinions based on logical premises and data, I’m all about reading them. But if they want to regurgitate ridiculous propositions that have unfounded and ridiculous conclusions, then they’re not going to find welcome here. Referring to the position as woo-woo is the least I can do.

  16. I think that it is important to keep an open mind in this life. I have done research on dolichocephaly and there is nothing to conclude without any doubt that all elongated skulls found were the result of head-binding practices. It is apparent that the vast majority were, but the glaring question is why? Since it is a pan-human phenomenon it stands to reason that it was something that was learned, passed down through the generations. It is easy to pass it off as a purely aesthetic practice, but it’s popularity among the ancient civilizations of the world lean towards it being one of emulation. This is not to say that the “cone-heads” were aliens, but were perhaps a separate race now long extinct. I like to keep my options open. I can see from your writings that you have your reality pretty well set in stone, and that’s fine. I’m just glad I don’t have to live in your reality just as I am sure you are glad you don’t have to live in my “woo-woo” reality.


  17. Thanks for the thread. That was interesting reading as I am in the process of writing a research paper on this subject. But there is STILL the glaring question as to why. We can all sit around and speculate the reasons, but that’s all we are really doing. The idea that such a practice evolved separately on different continents seems like a real stretch to me. Coincidences like this are what seem to polarize us humans. Some will say there is something more mysterious and want to ask questions, others will try to piece together bits of evidence in order to offer an explanation. Some people go down a road, like the alien theory, and not want to hear anything else. Others will only want to look at facts that have already been accepted, and will pound square pegs into round holes in order to make the hypothesis fit. We need both, a scientific and rational approach, with an open mind that is willing to take on new ideas and radically different ways of thinking. It’s like when Cortes came to the new world and the Aztecs just assumed he was Quetzalcoatl returning from the sea, just as he (Quetzalcoatl) had said he would. Is it a coincidence that Quetzalcoatl was described in Aztec lore as being a tall, white skinned being with a long beard who went into the sea? And that Cortes resembled him in many ways and also came from the sea? Maybe. But again, rational explanations don’t always tell the whole story, just as myths and legends do not either. I’ll dig deeper, but there seems only to be more questions.

    • That was interesting reading as I am in the process of writing a research paper on this subject.

      You might, then, be interested in the bibliography that follows part 2. There are many good primary sources you might find interesting and useful.

      But there is STILL the glaring question as to why.

      I think some of the “why” we can state without too much question, depending on the culture. Some cultures clearly had a tradition of aesthetic appeal. Others might have started as ancestor worship or veneration, though there are some questions regarding this as well.

      In the end, the best we’ll probably be able to do is make some really good, educated guesses that are supported to various degrees by archaeological evidence in the material record. The reason for this is that the material, archaeological record is just about all we have to go on (I say just about because Blackwood and Danby’s research on the Arawe had a lot to do with ethnographic study). There are a lot of hypotheses and I think that’s part of the fun of studying cranial modification: you get to evaluate these based on available evidence.

      An open mind is always a good thing, but as Carl Sagan was found of pointing out, we want to ensure that our minds aren’t so open that our brains fall out . Hypotheses like “aliens are the cause” really don’t have any traction since such an explanation introduces far more assumptions than it can explain. There are far too many more prosaic and earthly explanations that require fewer assumptions to be true. One of these was the hypothesis that head-shaping denoted an elite status, but this explanation by itself has fallen out of favor in, perhaps, every culture where head-shaping is a practice known to exist. That’s one of the things I sought to examine in my initial research on the topic (which is on-going).

      As to the coincidence of the practice across global cultures, I don’t really see this as polarizing or a great mystery. Indeed, I look at it as a unifying characteristic of ancient (and recent) human culture that has something very distinct in common: people. We’re all the same species. There’s a discipline of archaeology, which I’m becoming more and more involved, that’s referred to as Cognitive Archaeology -essentially the study of the material record of human thought. Cognitively speaking, humans probably very quickly recognized that the cranial portion of the human body was special. We see it in the archaeological records of many cultures (cave paintings, figurines, etc. Many body parts are left to the imagination (hands, arms, legs, genitalia -though not always or consistently) in cases where the head is given special attention (hair, headgear, crowns, jewelry, adornments, anthropomorphic figures, etc.). From the point of view of a human, the world is viewed from just a few inches behind the eyes and nose. One’s sense of direction emanates from this point.

      So it shouldn’t be surprising that more than one culture engages in a practice that accentuates the skull in some way. We’re always ready for new evidence and new explanations (this is obvious if one studies the history of archaeology -otherwise we would still consider paleolithic stone tools to be “elf-bolts” and “thunder-stones!” So it isn’t a matter of trying to put new “square” ideas into the “round” holes of old explanations. Radically different ways of thinking might be good in some cases (getting us away from the “elf-bolts”) but in each of the cases where radically new ideas came along, extraordinary evidence accompanied them. With evidence for aliens, elves, and other radical explanations lacking, we have no choice but to consider what we already know. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t look outside the box, we just can’t include out-of-the-box explanations without evidence.

      Finally, and this is just a minor point, I’ve never heard of Quetzalcoatl described as a “tall, white skinned being with a long beard who went to the sea.” As far as I’m aware, Quetzalcoatl is always depicted as a feathered serpent or as a anthropomorphic deity or priest with feathered-serpent qualities (headdress, clothing, etc.).

  18. I took the picture of that skull. It was found hurried under the naska lines in Peru. Don’t judge the skull shape only. All the skulls that I shot only have 10 teeth on the top and 10 on the bottom. Humans have 14 or more. To see them go to the museum in Ica in Peru. They will tell you that they are not deformed.

    • It’s a great picture, which I found on the web. I hope it’s okay to use here.

      As far as the shape, the deformations and the manner in which the skulls are shaped is fairly well known and understood. The particular skull in question may have only had 10 mandibular and maxillary teeth respectively, but this doesn’t imply that the individual began life with only 20 adult teeth. Frequently in the archaeological record, teeth become lost or dislodged post-mortem. Moreover, it is definitely not uncommon for teeth to be lost during an adult’s living years. This may be in particular for those who participate in skull deformation as noted by Cheverud and Midkiff (1992), who found measurable effects on the face within populations who were subjected to skull deformations.

      Regardless of what the staff of the Museum in Peru might be telling people, the skulls deformed such as the one in your wonderful photo are, indeed, human. There simply aren’t any other good explanations, and there are a rich body of data describing cranial deformations in many human cultures as well as how these deformations are done. In addition, the deformation process is evident in radiographic examinations of the cranial vaults, which show the expected changes in bone density.

      You may be interested in my article on cranial deformation on this blog for more information and references.


      Cheverud, James M.; Midkiff, James E. (1992). Effects of fronto-occipital cranial reshaping on mandibular form. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 87, 167-171.

  19. Researcher’s have put sand inside normal heads and the cone shape heads like the one is at the top and you are completely wrong, the volume is very very different, besides that, bone density and size is quite different too, the eye orbits are quite different too. Having said that, I am not implying that they come from the stars, but I do disregard the antropology view as yours as truthfull. There is something in this craneums that do not match archeological version of human history. in fact, some tribes still practice this kind of modifications and they look nothing like the peruvian craniums. Given that this modified craneum people had more than doble craneum capacity were they more inteligent? more capable? after all they had doble the brain we have now. A real scientist investigates, does not become a dogmatic follower of other people findings or mistakes…

    • Bohemius, I’d like to see the data from these “researchers.”

      But that aside, why must increased cranial capacity equate to increased intelligence? Moreover, one cannot dismiss the fact that increased cranial capacity does mean increased brain size. Other stuff could be present in a modified skull besides neural tissue.

      But if you’re going to claim me to be “completely wrong,” you should at least have the courtesy to demonstrate why that is so. Reference legitimate sources such that I might be educated. Please.

  20. Another point is, How can you look at the photograph and say: is just craneal modification. Thats just BS!, look at the size of that skull, are you trying to make me think that is just a regular skull with head modification..yeah sure! (irony). Not way man! just look at it! the size is massive compare to a normal homo sapiens head.
    Not only the 10 teeth are different, if you put a nowday craneum side by side to this one, our craneums will look like a baby head in comparison…so please, be a real scientist, look at what is just in front of you, dont follow any dogmatic believe…its evident that a lot is very very very different in the cone head craneums

    • That these are cranial modifications really isn’t in doubt except by the irrational, the mystery-mongers, and a few significance-junkies. As modifications, the methods and results are well-established and understood. Moreover, there is a large body of literature on the topic. I invite you to read my broader article on the topic as well as to peruse the primary literature in the bibliography that follows it:

      The photo is a bit out of perspective and the photographer made good use of his F-stops and lens size to give us a perspective that seems larger than it may really be. However, when craniums such as these are measured for volume, what’s found time and time again is that the perceived size is a matter of bone density and not interior volume. In addition, we have good ethnographic evidence of cranial modification in modernity as well as forensic evidence in the cranial vault themselves (bone density, vault thickness, banding from the straps worn as infants/toddlers, etc.

      You mention “the 10 teeth are different” but I’m not sure what you’re going at here. Adult humans have 32 teeth, and I’m not sure the photo I chose for this article gives the resolution needed to count the extant dentition on the remains, but its very common for skulls from antiquity to be recovered with missing teeth. They can be missing due to taphonomic processes post-mortem, cultural reasons both anti-mortem and peri-mortem, or due to the hard life of the individual (injuries, caries, etc.). I see nothing unusual about this individual’s teeth, though it’s hard to say given the resolution of the photo.

      The larger point is, however, before going off half-cocked criticizing others for not being “a real scientist” and following “dogmatic” beliefs, learn a little about the science first. Present data and argue some salient points rather than spouting woo and you might actually be heard.

  21. I understand that the practice of skull shaping has supposedly “disproved” that there was alien life influencing the people of the practice. However has anyone stopped and asked themselves why were the practitioners practicing this art? I understand it is for social acceptance but I must ask myself and others why was it considered socially acceptable? Were there aliens that influenced them and they saw them as a higher power and shaped there children in “gods” own image? As Christians try to mould their lives around gods will, how can we be so quick to conclude this a normal practice. Could the ancients have moulded themselves into the images of “god” by elongating their heads to be closer to them? I just don’t think we should be so quick to dispell a theory which is plausible.

    • Emily, first let me say thanks very much for taking a moment to visit this this blog. I’ve been pretty distracted the last year or so and haven’t posted as often as I might have liked, so it’s always good to see that my older posts are still getting traffic and attention.

      I’d also like to commend you on your clear propensity to question things. That’s certainly the right way to go about exploring the universe around you.

      Regarding your first comment above, I like to first point out that it isn’t so much that alien life (or influence) has been “disproved” through an understanding of the practice of skull shaping. Rather, it’s more the case that no evidence has been found that can truly support such hypotheses. As an hypothesis, the ancient alien argument is definitely a fun one (and one that I would secretly like to be true), but so far, no legitimate evidence has been put forth to support it. There are, however, many explanations for cranial modifications like skull shaping that are not only plausible, but also do not suppose alien influences. Such influences logically posit many new assumptions that cannot be substantiated (i.e. the existence of alien visitation on Earth). Unfortunately, many see elongated skulls as evidence of alien visitation but this creates a circular argument since to explain elongated skulls this way one must assume the existence of aliens.

      But you’re spot on when you point out that the central question is “why?” And this is a question that both archaeologists and ethnographers are attempting to explore answers to. There are many such questions in archaeology, however: why did Archaic Indians prefer one point style over another?; why did Natufians plaster their skulls (which, incidentally, they subtly modified the shape of as toddlers)?; why did Neolithic artisans prefer diamond-shaped heads on figurines in some parts of the world?; and so on…

      I think you’re on the right track (as do many researchers) with assuming that the practitioners are emulating one or more gods. Or perhaps it is a perceived notion of an ancestral form. Or perhaps it is a caricature of an ancestor or god.

      Regarding your second comment, I think that many sensible people, particularly scientific researchers, would agree that it is unlikely that we are the only sentient (or even the most sentient/intelligent) beings in the universe. But one needs to consider the vastness, the utter enormity, of the universe -or even just the galaxy. Our own galaxy may be teeming with intelligent life and we may never know it. The likelihood that aliens have visited our small, relatively insignificant world is almost imperceptibly small.

      What I like is that, however small the chances are that we might encounter intelligent alien life or that it has already encountered us, there is necessarily still a probability that it has already happened. I too am fascinated with the endless possibilities of the universe.

      Thanks again for reading here.

  22. I personally find it hard to belive that the human race is able to be ignorant enough to believe that is the only and supreme race in our entire universe. Why is it so impossible for another race to exist? Why do NASA and the government spend billions on building satilites for the transmission of numbers (In the presumpcion that if there is intelligent life they would be to the stage of mathematics) if they themselves do not believe there to be an alternative life in the universe? Please do not presume that I am one of these science fiction nuts, I am a 19 year old girl fascinated by the endless possibilities of our universe.

    • It’s not so different. The health benefits of circumcision are non-existent, and the health benefits of braces are nearly so. The vast majority of people get braces simply to make their teeth look more aligned and symmetrical. Rarely are human teeth so misaligned that braces improves their health.

      All three are mostly cosmetic choices. Though there are certain circumstances where even cranial modification is done for medical reasons even today.

  23. Tomayto tomahto
    Dragon dinosaur
    God dictator

    The sedentary christian philosophy almost seems like a subliminal form of communism. I am, of course, referring to the inception of the ideal that self deprivation coincides with godliness and morality. It seems as though this self deprivation clashed with the Zoroastrian perception of god and his interactions with humans. Especially the stories of divine incarnation. The monotheism part dates back to early and unorganized iranian theology.

    Potayto potahto
    Prophet philosopher
    Bible ancient history book
    Scientific theory religious theology

    Theo means having to do with god.

    Just as we accept science to be fact, ancient people accepted religion to be fact. Maybe its all fact or maybe none of it is. It is my personal belief that truth lies within yourself and within nature. All truth is self-evident. But then again perhaps my entire perception is just a culmination of ideas entwined in my subconscious mind. Haha.. and i wonder why i cant sleeo at night

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