Excavation of an ancient burial site in South Sonora, Mexico, has revealed a series of skeletons with intentionally deformed skulls.
Of the 25 sets of human remains found close to the Mexican village of Onavas, 13 had deformed craniums and five had evidence of dental mutilation.
According to Past Horizons, misshapen skulls have not been recorded before in the Sonora cultural groups, although they are documented among Mesoamerican peoples.
Some of the skeletons, believed to be 1,000 years old, wore nose rings, bangles, earrings, necklaces and pendants made from shells found in the Gulf of California.
One was found with a turtle shell laid over its abdomen.
Archaeologist Cristina Garcia Moreno said: “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.”
Moreno is director of the research project, which is being carried out on behalf of Arizona State University , with the approval of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
She added: “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.”
Elongated skulls have previously been misinterpreted as being of extra-terrestrial origin.
The process of elongating a skull usually begins in childhood with a process called “cradle-boarding”.
Ryan Matthews of Science Channel series Oddities told HuffPost Weird: “They would put two boards around the head and wrap it very securely.
“Because the head of a child is very soft, it can be manipulated forward, but the process would take several months.”