2,000-Year-Old Toddler Skeleton with Elongated Skull Unearthed in Crimea
The remains of a 1.5-year-old boy with a pronounced elongation of the skull have been found by archaeologists at a 2,000-year-old burial site in Crimea. Russian archaeologists say that the skull deformation indicates that this boy was marked out to be a warrior.
RT.com reports that the skeletal remains were found at a Sarmatian cemetery dating between 1st and 3rd century AD near the village of Yakovenkovo in eastern Crimea. It was excavated ahead of work connected with the new giant bridge to link the Crimean Peninsula with mainland Russia.
The 2,000-year-old remains were found near the construction of the Crimean bridge, pictured. (CC by 4.0)
The Archaeology Fund, which organizes excavations of historically important sites across Central Russia, Crimea, and Northern Africa, jokingly referred to the site as the “alien’s grave”, as elongated skulls are often seen in illustrations of extraterrestrials.
However, artificial cranial deformation is a common trait seen among remains belonging to the Sarmatian culture, who once inhabited modern-day Crimea. They would bind wooden planks to infant skulls with a cloth to gradually alter the shape. “Such deformations were seen as altering the character, and making the warriors 'more aggressive',” reports The Daily Mail. “The high amount of offensive weapons found in Sarmatian graves indicates they lived a military-oriented nomadic life.”
The excavation site where archaeologists found the toddler with an elongated skull. Credit: Archaeology Fund.
The practice of intentional deformation of the skull was once widespread all over the world. According to current beliefs, this custom probably appeared independently in different regions of the world, beginning as early as the Late Paleolithic Period, but possibly even earlier. In the Carpathian Basin, elongated skulls date to the late Iron Age, known in this region as the Hun-Germanic Period, and can be observed in all the people of the Carpathian Basin equally– the Sarmatians, Alans, Gothics, Depidics, and Hun populations. More than 200 elongated skulls have been found in the Carpathian Basin to date.
Elongated Skulls from Crimea, Baer 1860
The newly-discovered infant was said to be male, but the Sarmatians are also well-known for their female warriors, who helped to conquer Crimea in ancient times. Herodotus reported that the Sarmatians were said to be the offsprings of Scythians who had mated with Amazons and that their female descendants "have continued from that day to the present to observe their ancient [Amazon] customs, frequently hunting on horseback with their husbands; in war taking the field; and wearing the very same dress as the men" Moreover, said Herodotus, "No girl shall wed till she has killed a man in battle."
As well as the child with the elongated skull, archaeologists also unearthed massive stone tombs belonging to elite members of the Bosporan Kingdom, an ancient state located in eastern Crimea between the fifth century BC and fourth century AD.
Top image: The remains of the toddler with an elongated skull in Crimea. Credit: Archaeology Fund