For families that lived in the Andes between 1100 and 1450, binding their baby’s head was related to a high social status.
Cornell Chronicle wrote that, similar to the Chinese foot binding, skull binding might have been a marker of group identity. “Its period of popularity in what is now Peru, before the expansion of the Inca Empire, was marked by political upheaval, ecological stress and the emergence of new cultural practices.”, they say.
Matthew Velasco, an assistant professor of anthropology, analyzed hundreds of human remains from multiple tombs in the Colca Valley of highland Peru and discovered that head modification was a practice that increased over time. According to his findings: “from 39.2 percent to 73.7 percent”.
According to Cornell Chronicle, the Collaguas people used methods to make their heads assume a longer, narrower shape, while the Cavanas tried to make their heads wide and squat. Later on, the elongated shape became the predominant style of modification in this region.
“This shift toward embodying a shared identity may have strengthened ties between groups engaged in protracted conflict with outsiders, including the Incas”, said Velasco to this website.
So, whether this practice meant a higher social status, it is still to be determined, according to Cornell Chronicle, but to the assistant professor of anthropology, there is bio-archaeological evidence that modified females possessed more access to diverse food options and were less likely to encounter violence. “Cranial modification thus appears to be a factor in societal inequality”, Velasco said.