A study of 211 skulls from a pre-Inca society suggests head-shaping developed over time
M. Velasco/Current Anthropology 2018
Bigwigs in a more than 600-year-old South American population were easy to spot. Their artificially elongated, teardrop-shaped heads screamed prestige, a new study finds.
During the 300 years before the Incas’ arrival in 1450, intentional head shaping among prominent members of the Collagua ethnic community in Peru increasingly centered on a stretched-out look, says bioarchaeologist Matthew Velasco of Cornell University. Having long, narrow noggins cemented bonds among members of a power elite — a unity that may have helped pave a relatively peaceful incorporation into the Incan Empire, Velasco proposes in the February Current Anthropology.
“Increasingly uniform head shapes may have encouraged a collective identity and political unity among Collagua elites,” Velasco says. These Collagua leaders may have negotiated ways to coexist with the encroaching Inca rather