Not far from the small Mexican village of Onavas, in Mexico, archaeologists have uncovered odd elongated skulls dating to about 943 CE.
Inside the pre-historic burial ground there were 25 people of which 13 had intentional cranial deformations.
Some of the individuals were wearing ornaments such as as bangles, nose rings, earrings, pendants made from shells found in the Gulf of California, and
one burial contained a turtle shell, carefully placed over the abdomen. However, the archaeologists noted that the burials were not accompanied by the
expected offerings and containers.
For archaeologists, the discovery is exciting new evidence of cranial deformation, something which has not been recorded before in the Sonora cultural groups.
An elongated skull discovered in Mexico. Image credit: INAH
"This unique find shows a mix of traditions from different groups of northern Mexico. The use of ornaments made from sea shells from the Gulf of California
had never been found before in Sonoran territory and this discovery extends the limit of influence of Mesoamerican peoples farther north than has been previously
recorded," said archaeologist Cristina Garcia Moreno, director of the research project.
"Cranial deformation in Mesoamerican cultures was used to differentiate one social group from another and for ritual purposes, while the dental mutilation
in cultures such as the Nayarit was seen as a rite of passage into adolescence.
This is confirmed by the findings at the Sonora cemetery where the five
bodies with dental mutilation are all over 12 years in age.
Image credit: INAH
In this case, you cannot recognize any social differences because all the burials seem to have the same characteristics.
Nor have we been able to determine why some were wearing ornaments and others not, or why of the 25 skeletons only one was female." said Garcia Moreno
who has been conducting work on behalf of Arizona State University with approval of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH)
According to the researchers death was not caused by any diseases but rather by excessive force while squeezing the skull.