ELEVEN thousand years ago a tall and solidly built Aboriginal man lived a hard life. His bones reveal he had multiple breaks in both forearms, a fractured ankle so severe his shin bones fused together and arthritis in his jaw.
''Death might have been something to look forward to for him,'' palaeoanthropologist Peter Brown said.
But since his skeleton, known as Nacurrie, was discovered in 1948, near Swan Hill on the Murray River, it has been the changes to his skull that have been of most interest to Professor Brown.
The shape of his cranium suggests Aborigines practised body modification, specifically manipulating the contour of the skull, he said. Nacurrie appears to be the earliest example of the practice being used anywhere in the world, he said.
''You can only change the shape of the head in a baby because the skull is soft and malleable so it can pass through the birth canal,'' said Professor Brown, from the University of New England.
The skeleton of Nacurrie, which has been repatriated, suggests his skull shape was modified by subtle means, probably by massage from his mother's hands. Several other skulls found in the Murray-Darling area also had modified skulls.
''It is clear from the archaeological record that a group of people living on the Murray River used to do this … between 10,000 and 13, 000 years ago.''
Professor Brown said massaging the skull doesn't cause brain damage because the brain is a flexible organ. The practice was probably done for aesthetic reasons, but it wasn't known why it had stopped in Aborigines.
Nacurrie man's skeleton also shows Aborigines living 10,000 years ago were much bigger than those first encountered during European settlement.
In Papua New Guinea some mothers would bind their babies' heads with a tight bandage, which created a cone shape, while in South America babies were sometimes bound to create a flat-shaped head, he said.
''In the Netherlands and Denmark they used to put little caps on babies which used to change the shape of their heads. That was done until fairly recently.'' source
My comment: I really don't understand that practice. It makes no sense at all. It's ridiculous to think it was done only for aesthetics. Aesthetics is something you learn or train. You don't just get born liking conical heads. There was reason for them to do that, but nobody so far told me one that is logical. I won't go in the aliens theories, but for me there are two main options - either they saw that in someone they respected, or they did it to develop certain parts of the brain. Which one it is, I have no idea.