Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Julio Tello and the Paracas Skulls

In the 1920s, archeologist Julio Tello was a leading scholar on ancient Peru. In 1928 while scouting the Paracas region of Peru, he made an outstanding discovery. Tello found hundreds of cone-shaped skulls. 


Julio Tello

The Paracas skulls have been the subject of speculation ever since. Some of the most absurd is that these are skulls of aliens or some unknown human species. All of which are proven to be false. While the actual nature of the skulls is fascinating, it’s much more mundane.

The shape of the skulls results from a practice called head binding or cranial deformation. Several indigenous cultures worldwide have bound the heads of children, causing the normal growth of the skull to be altered during the first few years before the bones are naturally fused into place.

In an article at, Melissa S. Murphy, an anthropology professor at the University of Wyoming who specializes in the analysis of human remains from Peru, explained, “Prehispanic peoples on the south coast of Peru and elsewhere in Peru have engaged in this practice for thousands of years.” According to Murphy, “Deliberate head shaping is a form of cultural modification of the body that marks different things, like one’s identity, a rite of passage, (or) an occupation.”

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