History is replete with examples of humans and the efforts they make to appeal to each other – one of the main ways this occurs is through various modifications to our bodies. Be it as simple as having your ears pierced or colouring your hair to tattooing and other more exotic methods where we permanently alter our bodies appearance.
Yet for all the piercings and modifications we have seen around the world, one of the most remarkable would have to be the art known as Artificial Cranial Deformation (ACD). That is, the modification of a persons skull in to a different shape.
The history of ACD goes back as far as 6000-7000 years BCE where altered skulls have been dated after being found in the Peruvian Andes. While it has been seen all around the world, ACD has been most well known as having occurring on the South American continent.
Taking advantage of the plasticity of a childs’ skull various methods were used to create the changes.
- Compressing the front and back of the ad with boards, pads and bandages
- Tightly wrapping the head with a binding that was progressively adjusted
- Restraining the child against a portable cradle board
The most famous of these skulls are from Peru. The people who lived there millennia ago are now known as the ‘Paracas’ but their origins are lost to time. No one knows what their culture was like, what language they spoke, or even what they called themselves. These unknown people are also responsible for the creation of the legendary Nazca lines. It was only after many of these artworks had been created that the actual Nazca people invaded the area and continued the practice as well as giving the name to the phenomenon.
What is interesting about these Paracas skulls is that the elongation of the skulls isn’t easily explained by the methods listed above. There are theories that for some reason the Paracas were born with skulls like this and that later generations were attempting to imitate their appearance. In these earlier examples of elongated skulls the heads also have much larger eye sockets that humans. Scientists have been unable to explain the reason for this.
So who were the Paracas and why did they go to such great lengths to change their shape? Were they imitating something they had seen or venerated? Generally body modification is done to make oneself more appealing in some way so how did they derive the idea that a large elongated skull was appealing?
To this day we still think of people with ‘large heads’ as being smart – that the size of their skull relates directly to intelligence.
What is also interesting is that reconstructions of their faces over the skulls give a definite non-Amerindian appearance. So were they completely different from the other peoples that lived in the region? DNA testing is being organised to determine the genetics behind this mysterious people.
Had the Paracas people met someone or something that instilled in them that idea? The idea that a race with advanced knowledge had been travelling around the world while people were living in tribes is not a new one. Nor is the idea that their have been ‘space-men’ visiting here long before modern times. Having had their lives changed dramatically in some way they have then sought to emulate the beings that aided them.
I’ll just leave this picture here shall I?