Trepanation Elongated Skulls, Maya, Egyptian -Dr. Colette Dowell writes about malformed skulls.

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Figure 1. Skull of Mayan child laborer. Photograph: Colette M. Dowell
                 Courtesy: National Museum of Anthropology, Merida, Yucatan

Is the title of one of my most favorite books authored by John Michell.
I felt this to be a good title for this unusual paper written by me,
Dr. Colette M. Dowell ©1996

I have added some modern links for more information. CMD

John Michell in his own right is a most remarkable human. His fortean sense of perception and his keen intelligence is appreciated by many who have had the favor of knowing him personally or reading his books.

        One late night in my small caravan in Southern England, John and I had some seriously weird conversations about odd events and extraordinary  concepts. We chatted on absurdities and laughed about peculiar notions people held in reverie which led them to execute the most bizarre behavior. It was then that I first learned about his book, “Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions.

        While we ‘surfed’ the cosmic realm department, John told of a couple who had literally drilled holes (by means of an electric drill while tripping on LSD) in theirs heads and removed part of their skull bone in hopes of achieving greater blood flow volume to the brain. This far-out procedure is known as trepanation and is held sacred by many indigenous peoples by their noble priests in search of attaining greater spiritual and cosmic knowingness. The belief behind this self mutilation is basically; the greater the volume of flow of blood in the brain, the vaster the cosmic knowledge.  Spiritual satisfaction — I guess.

        In John’s book he writes of a fellow Dr. Bart Huges, and relates Mr. Huges view on this matter. One’s state and degree of consciousness, he realized, are related to the volume of blood in the brain. According to his theory of evolution, [Huges] the adoption of an upright stance brought certain benefits to the human race, but it caused the flow of blood through the head to be limited by gravity, thus reducing the range of human consciousness. Certain parts of the brain ceased or reduced their functions while others, particularly those parts relating to speech and reasoning, became emphasized in compensation.

Figure 2. Wooden cradle compressing and squeezing the skull
of a Maya youth during the soft bone period of development
creating a ‘cone head’ upper class individual.
Photograph: Colette M. Dowell.
Courtesy: National Museum of Anthropology, Merida, Yucatan.

       That is all well and fine I suppose, I really don’t know how removing a piece of your skull to increase blood flow volume really works. I also don’t know how transforming your skull might or might not be beneficial to your ‘consciousness. The Japanese bind the females feet and mutilate them for ‘beauty’, various tribes in Africa place rings and plates in their lips and bodies for specific tribal purposes and some folk will do just about anything to their body in hopes of making a statement or coming to terms with their ‘GOD.’ So hey, who really knows what kind of spiritual connection is behind these extreme endeavors? Who can really judge? And with that last statement I will bring in the Maya and their bodily malformations.

        When I first entered the National Museum of Anthropology in Merida, Yucatan, I was entranced by the spectacular ancient bones and corpses which laid throughout the museum floor and architecturally correct wall exhibits. Heads of priestly Maya individuals were inlaid with turquoise and their teeth studded with semi-precious gemstones. There were illustrations of Maya women depicting their eyes crossed (in the name of beauty). The subtitles described how Maya children’s faces were fashioned with tooled head-dresses placed directly in their field of vision, affecting over a period of time the small muscles and ligaments of the eyes;  producing crossed eyes. However, the exhibits of distorted ancient Maya skulls were with out a doubt, the most impressive to me.

        When I first viewed the skulls I thought “ah-ha, these guys were ‘aliens’!” There was no way in my mind that these Maya skulls were in any way a representation of the ‘human’ race. I was wrong. Upon furthering my interest in the skulls, I noticed an illustration of a Maya woman holding a Maya youth strapped into a wooden cradle whereby two planks of wood were compressing and squeezing the child’s head. After a period of time during the soft bone period of development of the child, the skull would be forever elongated and the now ‘cone head’ individual would be recognized as a member of the noble ‘upper class’ society of the Maya. See figure 2. &  4.  

        The laboring class of Maya had  their own distinctive look. They strapped their developing  youth’s heads into wooden frames creating ovoid basketball type skulls eerily suggestive of our modern day Jack-O-Lantern. See figure 1. & 3.

Figure 3. Wooden vices strapped on Mayan child laborer. Photograph: Colette M. Dowell
Courtesy: National Museum of Anthropology, Merida, Yucatan.

       Perhaps there were very specific reasons for the different shaped skulls besides just ‘categorizing’ an individual. I thought of trepanation and Dr. Bart Huges theory of greater blood flow volume to the brain for achieving greater cosmic knowledge. Could some how the various shapes of the skull affect the blood flow and the particular functions of the brain in different ways? Did the Maya theorize this as well? Could the noble ‘cone-heads’ of the ‘upper class’ obtain greater cosmic awareness while manipulating and maintaining a laboring class of ‘basketball’ heads to serve them and build their palatial temples?  

Figure 4. Ancient Maya ‘ upper class’ adult skull. Photograph: Colette M. Dowell
Courtesy: National Museum of Anthropology, Merida, Yucatan.
The Maya are known for their Serpent Gods which wore very elaborate, elongated head-dresses and the upper class Maya wanted very much to fashion their own skulls as such. Why did their Gods where such tall elaborate hats? Did they need to because their skulls were elongated? (the Egyptian Gods also have elongated head-dresses; is there a common link between Ancient Gods? Were the Gods the same species or something?) Of course whatever reasons the Maya had for mal-forming their skulls seem somewhat peculiar to me and to most modern day cultures. But in a sense, how can modern day societies judge what may or may not be appropriate for another ancient civilization? What some ‘modern’ humans do to their bodies today (tattooing, piercing, shaving, ratting, dyeing and transplanting hair, wearing makeup, lipo-suction, plastic surgery, breast implants, rib removal, trepanation,  etc.), could possibly be held  by some ‘ancients’ as being totally absurd. Do the people who transform their bodies in these ways have a spiritual, cosmic motive, or do they do it for beauty? There are many reasons behind such acts and they are all probably very personal.   C.M.D.








Colette Dowell Circular Times Alternative Magazine Published Since 1995

An International Networking Educational Institute

Intellectual, Scientific and Philosophical Studies

Copyright © 1995, 2005, 2006, 2007,

Dr. Colette M. Dowell, N.D.