Infant skull binding shaped identity, inequality in ancient Andes

By: Linda B. Glaser,  A&S Communications
February 19, 2018


The idea of binding and reshaping a baby’s head may make today’s parents cringe, but for families in the Andes between 1100-1450 AD, cranial modification was all the rage.

Like Chinese foot binding, the practice may have been a marker of group identity. Its period of popularity in the area that is now Peru, before the expansion of the Inka empire, was marked by political upheaval, ecological stress and the emergence of new cultural practices. In “Ethnogenesis and Social Difference in the Andean Late Intermediate Period (1100-1450 AD): A Bioarchaeological Study of Cranial Modification in the Colca Valley, Peru,” published in the February edition of Current Anthropology, Matthew Velasco, assistant professor of anthropology, explores how head-shaping practices may have enabled political solidarity while furthering social inequality in the region.

Matthew Velasco