Back in 2014 the elongated skulls of Paracas in Peru gained a lot of attention, when a geneticist’s preliminary DNA test reported that they have mitochondrial DNA “with mutations unknown in any human, primate, or animal known so far”. Now a second round of DNA testing has been completed and the results are just as intriguing. The tested skulls, which date back more than 2,000 years, were shown to have European and Middle Eastern Origin. These surprising new results are changing our understanding about how the Americas were populated.
Paracas’ desert peninsula is located in the Pisco Province on the south coast of Peru. In 1928, Peruvian archaeologist, Julio Tello, made an amazing discovery: a massive graveyard containing tombs filled with the remains of individuals with the largest elongated skulls found anywhere in the world. These have come to be known as the “Paracas skulls”. In total, Tello found more than 300 of these elongated skulls, some dating date back around 3,000 years.
It’s been long thought that most cases of skull elongation are the result of cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding, in which the skull is intentionally deformed by applying force over a long period of time. However, while cranial deformation changes the shape of the skull, it does not alter other features that are characteristic of a regular human skull, as is the case for the skulls in Paracas.
Author and researcher LA Marzulli describes how some of the Paracas skulls are different to ordinary human skulls:
“There is a possibility that it might have been cradle headboarded, but the reason why I don’t think so is because the position of the foramen magnum is back towards the rear of the skull. A normal foramen magnum would be closer to the jaw line…”
So, how exactly did the ancient Paracas modify their bone structure in a way no other culture has being able to replicate? The mystery remains.
The archaeological museum in Paracas recently allowed for scientist to take samples from three of the elongated skulls for DNA testing, including one infant. The subjects will be sent to USA for farther analysis and testing.