Victorian Scholars Already Knew about the "Mystery" of the Missing Sagittal Sutures on Elongated Skulls
To briefly follow up on yesterday’s post: Ancient Origins has now posted the second part of Hugh Newman’s article on giants in Egypt, and it is worse than the first. The thrust of the article is his belief that hieratic scale in art—in which the artist depicts more important people as larger than less important ones—proves that the pharaohs were giants. This makes about as much sense as arguing that Abraham Lincoln was an ogre because his statue in the Lincoln Memorial is 19 feet tall, representing a man who would stand 28 feet in height. Clearly the artist meant to imply that Lincoln was bigger than a barn. The real Lincoln stood six foot four inches—tall but not Nephilim tall.
Regular viewers of History channel programming undoubtedly remember that ancient astronaut and Nephilim theorists have seized upon an unusual feature of so-called elongated skulls from South America in an attempt to prove they are non-human: These skulls lack a sagittal suture, the line where two plates of the skull fuse in childhood. This condition, which is rare but not unprecedented among otherwise normal humans, suggests to fringe writers that the skulls belonged to genetically distinct creatures whose supernatural or extraterrestrial genes contributed to such a situation.
I was surprised to discover that the lack of a sagittal suture in elongated skulls was actually noticed by Victorian researchers, who had already understood the cause. I found the following passage in a book by David Forbes called On the Aymara Indians of Bolivia and Peru (1870):
The extraordinary elongated skulls (many of which have been received in Europe and have been frequently figured as well as described) which are met with in the ancient graves on the islands in the Lake Titicaca, in the Aymara country, have been described and regarded by [J. J. von] Tschudi as natural and peculiar to what he calls the Titicaca or Inca race. As before mentioned, the Inca or Quechua race cannot be correctly termed a Titicaca race, since the entire shores of Lake Titicaca have even from pre-incarial times been solely inhabited by the Aymaras, although subsequently conquered by the Incas. Elongated skulls are not confined to this district, or even entitled to be considered natural productions; if the evidence to prove their artificial origin is allowed due weight, the partial or total obliteration of the sutures in all those skulls which I examined must be regarded as so many proofs of the application of compression in infancy; and Bolivians who have disinterred them assure me that in the same graves (family or tribal burial-grounds) many other skulls of the usual form were always found along with them, and that the general opinion was that these elongated skulls belonged to the families of chieftains, amongst whom it was considered a mark of distinction to so distort the head (of the male only) in childhood. Although Tschudi mentions that he could not find any evidence to show that such practice of compressing the head was usual amongst the ancient Peruvians, I found full proof to the contrary upon searching the ‘Ordinanzas del Peru,’ Lima 1752, where, in tomo primero, lib. ii. tit. ix. ord. viii., we find the decree:--
The Spanish text I will give in my translation: “It is my command that no Indian man nor Indian woman shall compress the head of any newborn babies, as they usually do to produce longer heads, because when this is done, it increases mental impairment, it causes damage, and they can come to die from it. And the judges, priests, mayors, and caciques must take great care to ensure this is not done.”
There are two important points to note here: First, as Forbes points out, the Aymara and others in Peru and Bolivia were still practicing head-binding to achieve elongated skulls as late at the ordinance of 1752, and therefore were observed in the act of creating these “Nephilim hybrids.” While this does not disprove the claim that some of the skulls were those of space aliens or fallen angels, the testimony of the official laws of colonial Peru is strong evidence that there is no need to propose space aliens or fallen angels when we have actual witnesses to the production of such skulls.
But second, and more interesting, is the statement that the sagittal sutures were partially or completely erased by the process of head-binding, and that this was not surprising to Victorians observers. The partial erasure offers important evidence: What happened, Forbes is saying, is that the binding process forced the skull plates closer together than they would naturally be far earlier in a baby’s life. In a naturally growing skull, the plates do not close until after age 29, but in a bound head, the plates would be forced together in infancy, three decades too early. As a result, the bones grew together as they expanded, rather than fusing after the plates had fully and separately formed. At such a tender age, the bone matrix of both plates intertwined, giving the impression that it was a single bone, a sort of artificially induced scaphocephaly.
Forbes makes mention of Dr. J. J. von Tschudi, and readers with elephantine memories might remember that he is the originator of the “mystery” of Peru’s elongated skulls. Writing in 1847, he concluded that elongated skulls bore no mark of binding and therefore represented a mysterious lost race. The English edition of his book contains the famous engraving of a mummified fetus with an “elongated” skull (it was a normal skull, misunderstood) used by so many fringe writers:
Now, this made me curious enough to look at what other Victorian writers had to say about sagittal sutures in the wake of Tschudi’s claims. To that end, I found a record of the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1857, which took up the question. A paper by a Dr. Minchin “On the Macrocephali of Hippocrates” chided Tschudi and others without rigorous scientific training for mistaking their own ignorance for a fantastic discovery:
The absence of an interparietal (or sagittal) suture at this early age, was considered by those present as a remarkable feature of this cranium. But in fact all the long-heads with overhanging foreheads have this same constitution of the vertex. It is this original central ossification which gives a fixed character to the shape of the middle region of the head, and precludes the enlargement of the skull in a transverse direction during the period of growth; the skull therefore is obliged to enlarge excessively in some other direction wherever the open sutures permit, and the result is a decided elongation fore-and-aft. In the organic kingdoms it has been observed that occasionally very singular varieties will occur, which seem to be almost a distinct species, capable of reproducing similar varieties; these, however, disappear, and afterwards reappear sporadically at irregular intervals. Now, in several countries of Europe within comparatively few years, many instances of skulls have been observed, having the anatomical characters described above,—the elongated shape, overhanging forehead, vertical ossification.
While Minchin believed that such skull shapes appeared naturally due to birth defects, it seems that the binding process itself may in fact be to blame.
It is always fascinating to me to see that the “new” revelations of fringe history are actually Victorian in origin, and, worse, that the Victorians had already debunked them.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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