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New Analysis Resolves Ancient Enigma of Modified Human Skulls in Japan

A recent study has revealed that ancient modified human skulls found in a burial site in Japan were intentionally reshaped to express a collective identity among the Hirota people. This practice, affecting both men and women, involved flattening and squaring off the back of the skull, likely achieved through binding or pressure during infancy. The Hirota people inhabited Tanegashima Island from the third to seventh centuries. The study, published in PLOS One, suggests that this cranial modification might have contributed to their ability to establish trade connections, as indicated by artifacts from distant regions found in the burials. The research team employed 3D scanning to analyze the skulls in detail, concluding that the modifications were deliberate. This finding aligns with intentional skull-reshaping practices seen in various cultures worldwide. The authors hope that further excavations will provide insights into the motivations behind this practice and the Hirota people’s way of life.