Human sacrifice became a common cultural trait during the advanced phases of Mesoamerican civilizations. This phenomenon, influenced by complex religious beliefs, included several practices such as decapitation, cranial deformation, and the use of human cranial bones for skull mask manufacturing. Archaeological evidence suggests that all of these practices required specialized knowledge of skull base and upper cervical anatomy. The authors conducted a systematic search for information on skull base anatomical and surgical knowledge among Mesoamerican civilizations. A detailed exposition of these results is presented, along with some interesting information extracted from historical documents and pictorial codices to provide a better understanding of skull base surgical practices among these cultures. Paleoforensic evidence from the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan indicates that Aztec priests used a specialized decapitation technique, based on a deep anatomical knowledge. Trophy skulls were submitted through a stepwise technique for skull mask fabrication, based on skull base anatomical landmarks. Understanding pre-Columbian Mesoamerican religions can only be realized by considering them in their own time and according to their own perspective. Several contributions to medical practice might have arisen from anatomical knowledge emerging from human sacrifice and decapitation techniques.
Raul Lopez-Serna, Juan Luis Gomez-Amador, Juan Barges-Coll, Nicasio Arriada-Mendicoa, Samuel Romero-Vargas, Miguel Ramos-Peek, Miguel Angel Celis-Lopez, Rogelio Revuelta-Gutierrez and Lesly Portocarrero-Ortiz
Samuel Romero-Vargas, José Luis Ruiz-Sandoval, Arturo Sotomayor-González, Rogelio Revuelta-Gutiérrez, Miguel Angel Celis-López, Juan Luis Gómez-Amador, Ulises García-González, Raul López-Serna, Victor García-Navarro, Diego Mendez-Rosito, Victor Correa-Correa and Sergio Gómez-Llata
Induced deformation of the cranial vault is one form of permanent alteration of the body that has been performed by human beings from the beginning of history as a way of differentiating from others. These procedures have been observed in different cultures, but were particularly widespread in Mesoamerica. The authors examined and reviewed the historical and anthropological literature of intentional deformation practices in Mayan culture. The Mayans performed different types of cranial deformations and used different techniques and instruments to deform children's heads. The most remarkable morphological alteration is seen in the flattening of the frontal bone. Some archeological investigations link deformation types with specific periods. This article provides a glance at the cultural environment of the Mayans and demonstrates the heterogeneity of this interesting cultural phenomenon, which has changed over time.