Tower skulls from Bavaria

By Anagoria (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In recent weeks, we have reported about DNA analysis in genealogy. In this context, a genealogist from Pro Heraldica came to my office with an interesting topic: Tower Skull. You have never heard of it? I’ve also never heard of it before.

Genetic specificity artificially induced?

The background: During various excavations in the graves of former Bavarian settlements, researchers repeatedly came across skeletons of women with elongated skulls, so-called tower skulls. Now, of course, the question arose whether this unusually long skull shape was a genetic feature or whether that cranial deformation has been artificially induced.

First, the researchers set out to clarify the genetic origin of the skull. They found that all the skulls with the deformations were women’s skulls. On the other hand, the studies showed that they are genetically most closely related to today’s Bulgaria and Romania. This fact indicates that in the transitional period between antiquity and the Middle Age, a large influx of immigrants from southeastern Europe to today’s Bavaria has taken place.

Tower skull wrapped in bandages

The investigations also showed that the tower-shaped skulls have no genetic causes. The research group figured out that the skull was created by wrapping the skull with bandages. In early childhood the bandages were wrapped around the still pliable skull. This resulted in irreversible skull deformation.

Such practices are also known by American or African natives. These were usually used to demonstrate affiliation to a particular social class. However, one could also speculate that this was just beauty ideal of that time, similar to e.g. Piercings in our days.

The research showed that the tower skull disappeared in Bavaria after about half a century. This could also be an indication that it was a beauty ideal of that time.



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