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Thread: Deformed skulls or Cranial Modification in European History

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    Deformed skulls or Cranial Modification in European History



    Coincidentally, we've just been talking about this on another thread. Apparently, the Huns are to blame. :)

    See:
    https://cosmosmagazine.com/archaeolo...s-of-belonging

    "As they stormed out of the Russian steppes into Roman territory in western Eurasia in the fourth century CE, the Huns were, it is generally accepted, a scary sight.The fear they induced was not merely because of the way they were dressed, how they were armed, or the ruthless way they crushed all who attempted to oppose them. It was more than that: many, perhaps most, of them were physically deformed, their skulls unnaturally huge and protuberant.
    They looked, in fact, frighteningly weird. They were warriors from nightmares."

    "Among many cultures worldwide, the practice has been known since the Bronze Age, although it was pretty much discontinued across the Roman Empire. What the Huns can lay claim to, the researchers say, is inspiring a massive revival of it in many parts of Europe – even in lands in which they did not set foot."

    "
    Deformed skulls, Pilbrow and Mayall write, weren’t just a method of scaring the hell out of strangers. They were also symbols of belonging.“More than other forms of body modification, such as scarification, tattooing, or dental engraving, intentional cranial modification is a clear mark of ascribed social identity because the individual is never consulted but co-opted into the practice by society to demonstrate some aspect of aesthetic, gender, status or group identity,” they write."

    "Across the different cultures, cranial deformation was applied to men and women. Indeed, the skulls found in Georgia, Bavaria and Hungary were predominantly female – although the researchers suggest this could be in part an artefact of sample bias, reflecting the fact that more female skulls have been found."

    "The centre of cranial modification practice was undoubtedly Hungary, where the incoming Huns established their settlements. Pilbrow and Mayall report that, although examples of skull deformation dating to the Bronze Age and to the first century CE have been found there, “the highest incidences of cranial modification are seen … after the arrival of the Huns and the pattern persists after the end of the Hunnic empire”.

    I know it doesn't take much intellect to ride a horse and murder people, but it can't have had a big effect on cognition, right?


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    Strange and frightening-looking warriors. At least as far as battles and milittary conquests, the effect was devastating. The cognitive capacity for the art of war, in fact, seems not to have been affected by skull deformation.
    It is interesting to know that one of the motives for this strange practice was the creation of ferocious and monstrous warriors.
    Even more interesting to know that those who would be prepared for this (to be frightening warriors) were still newborn babies, since skull deformation is only feasible if started in early childhood. A culture focused on war and conquest and which begins the preparation of the future warrior elite very early.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Duarte View Post
    Strange and frightening-looking warriors. At least as far as battles and milittary conquests, the effect was devastating. The cognitive capacity for the art of war, in fact, seems not to have been affected by skull deformation.
    It is interesting to know that one of the motives for this strange practice was the creation of ferocious and monstrous warriors.
    Even more interesting to know that those who would be prepared for this (to be frightening warriors) were still newborn babies, since skull deformation is only feasible if started in early childhood. A culture focused on war and conquest and which begins the preparation of the future warrior elite very early.
    I agree with all of that, but why do it to the women? Was it just to mark them out as different? Elite?

    It's all very bizarre. I still wonder if it had some effect on cognitive functioning.

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    Perhaps the women of these ferocious warriors should, physically, resemble to them. A kind of warrior caste, I do not know. Well, that's just speculation of mine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Duarte View Post
    Perhaps the women of these ferocious warriors should, physically, resemble to them. A kind of warrior caste, I do not know. Well, that's just speculation of mine.
    Not everything in tribal societies is related to war - not even most of it. We know that women for the most parts had more prominent roles in these societies than they did in the civilized world. Women had their own rites, symbolisms and social/religious roles and responsibilities that would often at most indirectly (or not at all) relate to men.

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    Pretty widespread across the world and back into prehistory. Skulls are pretty malleable so I doubt it would mess up your brain. But boy is it weird.

    http://www.peterbrown-palaeoanthropology.net/Deform.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by markod View Post
    Not everything in tribal societies is related to war - not even most of it. We know that women for the most parts had more prominent roles in these societies than they did in the civilized world. Women had their own rites, symbolisms and social/religious roles and responsibilities that would often at most indirectly (or not at all) relate to men.
    Thanks for the explanation Markod.
    In fact, the role of women in many tribal societies was more important than the role of man. You're right.
    Just to give a touch of humor. Did the families of the Huns and the Bavarian families with skull deformation seemed like the family below (LOL):

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