Are you ready for a bit of weird history?
Archaeologists excavating a pair of 2 100-year-old funerary mounds in Salango, Ecuador, found something that they weren’t expecting.
They unearthed the remains of two infants believed to have been buried there in the year 100 BC.
One of the babies was around 18 months old at time of death, while the second was between six and nine months old.
That wasn’t the part that left them baffled, though.
Here’s Smithsonian Magazine,
As the researchers report in the journal Latin American Antiquity, excavations at a pair of funerary mounds revealed several unusual sets of remains.
Per the study, the discovery represents the only known evidence of “using juvenile crania as mortuary headgear” found to date.
“The modified cranium of a second juvenile was placed in a helmet-like fashion around the head of the first, such that the primary individual’s face looked through and out of the cranial vault of the second.”
In other words, the babies were wearing children’s skulls as helmets.
The older infant’s helmet originally belonged to a child aged 4 to 12 years old; interestingly, the researchers found a small shell and a finger bone sandwiched between the two layered skulls. The second baby’s helmet was fashioned from the cranium of a child between 2 and 12 years old.
How’s that for a bit of nightmare fuel. More? Cool.
What I told you that the skull helmets were still covered in human skin when they became helmets?
“We’re still pretty shocked by the find,” lead author Sara Juengst of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte tells Forbes’ Kristina Killgrove. “Not only is it unprecedented, there are still so many questions.”
That’s an understatement.
The skulls are still being studied in an effort to determine whether or not the skull helmets were worn in life as well as death. They’re also trying to figure out if the babies were related.
The most plausible explanation, according to Jeungst, is that the Guangala outfitted the infants with skulls “in reaction to some sort of natural or social disaster and [to ensure] that these infants had extra protection or extra links to ancestors through their burials.”
While the unusual burial may seem macabre to modern readers, Juengst tells Killgrove she found the helmets “strangely comforting.”
“Dealing with the death of young infants is always emotional,” she explains, “but in this case, it was strangely comforting that those who buried them took extra time and care to do it in a special place, perhaps accompanied by special people, in order to honor them.”
Juengst sounds like she’d be a lot of fun at a party.
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