In This Episode—S1E1
Elongated Peruvian Skulls
Skull elongation has been found in other cultures like the Vanuatu, Egyptians, Olmecs, the Obijwa Indians, and in small areas in Africa.
Though they vary in the amount of elongation from mild to extreme, the method of creation was uniform. When a child is born, the crown of the head is soft and pliable. Using tight rope or vine bindings (and sometimes bracing the skull against boards) forces the skull to slowly deform and elongate.
So what’s so unique about the skulls in the Paracas region of Peru?
Some of the Paracas skulls have 2.5 times the volume of a normal skull!
In order to produce such large skulls, archaeologists believe that part of the skulls extension had to be genetic. No other culture in the world, who practices head elongation, has been found to be able to increase the volume of the skull, but merely to change its shape.
In Tibet, your ancestors’ skulls can take the form of bowls, idols, drums, masks, and even coffee pots! Espresso anyone?
Ornately decorated with gemstones, wrapped in silver, and adorned with colorful fabric — Tibetans have made some of their most beautiful cultural artifacts from the human cranium.
The ‘Kapala’, or skull cup, is often depicted catching blood, but holds symbolic blood in the form of wine as an offering to traditional deities.
The ‘damru’ is a small drum, often made out of wood today, was likely to be made from the tops of male and female skulls. Each skull represented a side of the chanting mantra recited, and was deemed essential for lone ascetics.
Asmat Cannibal Skulls
For some, skulls are just what keeps your brain in, but for the Asmat in Papua New Guinea, skulls were bowls to eat out of, idols to worship, decorations to hang on the wall, and pillows to sleep on. That’s a whole new level of recycling.
The Asmats were a headhunting cannibal tribe fascinated with the human skull. They would decorate them with feather earrings, shells, and stones. The eyes were often covered to keep evil spirits out of the body.
On “special” occasions they would use the the skulls as bowls to eat a mixture of brains and worms before replacing them back on the mantle of communal long houses.
A skull that you might actually want to eat?
I know we may have probably dissuaded your appetite enough for the day, but this next skull is sweet enough to eat.
Canadian artist Marina Malvada borrows genuine human skulls from a tribal art collector to make the molds for her life-sized chocolate skulls.
Each of her skulls is the actual size of a human head—and pure solid chocolate! The skulls take around four days to complete, and in the end weigh in at 5 ½ pounds. That’s something you can sink your teeth into. Believe it or Not!