Intentionally elongated skulls of people who lived between 12,000 and 5,000 years ago found in China

Skulls discovered by a group of researchers from China, Singapore and the United States have been defined as the oldest case of cranial modification in a human being ever identified.

The researchers, who published their work in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, have in fact discovered skeletal remains at a site in China, called Houtaomuga, which showed signs of intentional cranial changes.

The cranial modification is a process that sees the alteration of the shape of the skull intentionally and that is carried out, in most cases, by tying ropes or pieces of cloth around the heads of newborns at a time of life during which the bones of the skull are still soft, therefore more malleable. In most cases, this custom, which can still be found in some tribal groups, is to lengthen the skull.

The researchers believe that this type of modification is carried out to label a person who belongs to a certain elite or in any case a special person. The researchers analyzed the remains of 25 human skeletons and found that 11 of these had signs of cranial changes.

They were almost all skulls belonging to adult males (they identified only one case of a woman) who lived in a period between 12,000 and 5,000 years ago: in fact, the bones were not buried at that same point in the same period.