Cuban deformed skulls

Collection Montané - CubaThe Montané Museum of Anthropology of the Havana University, Cuba, has many valuable archaeological and anthropological Antillean specimens, including the famous Ídolo del Tabaco and several pre-Columbian skulls. Among the noticeable cranial samples there are the Hombre Guayabo Blanco, the Homo cubensis Montane, and a collection of Taínos deformed skulls. These skulls display an oblique tabular fronto – occipital artificial cranial deformation, which is an Arawak – Taino cultural characteristic element. Such cranial deformations are induced immediately after birth, in both women and men. According to the descriptions supplied by Columbus and other chroniclers, deformations were practised by the Taíno pottery agriculture groups that lived in Cuba. They used one or two wrapped tablets surrounded with cotton. A free tablet was pressing the frontal region and tapes were tied to the occipital area, which in some cases could have be fixed with another tablet. According to Rivero de la Calle, there were 25 skulls with this type of deformation in private collections and museums. Although not all Taíno’s skulls were deformed, this feature is typically used as a cultural identification of this populations. This practice disappeared in the early years of colonization. Dean O’Loughlin noted the such changes may be able to influence the morphology of specific vascular endocranial traits, like the middle meningeal artery and the venous sinuses.

Gizéh Rangel de Lázaro

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