Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered the burials of 13 individuals — including two who were beheaded as part of sacrificial rituals and five whose skulls had been elongated through intentional deformation — near a Maya pyramid at the Moral-Reforma archaeological site near Tabasco.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) initially found the burials in April but announced their findings this week after analyzing the human remains. The burials date to between A.D. 600 and 900, a time when the Maya civilization flourished in the region, the INAH said in an Aug. 23 translated statement. The burials consist of human skulls, fragments of jaws, and bones of the lower and upper extremities, the archaeologists said in the statement. Their analysis also revealed that some of the bones had been covered in red pigment.
An anatomical examination revealed that all of the individuals were men between the ages of 17 and 35. During the first millennium, the Maya sometimes sacrificed their prisoners of war, but it’s unclear for now if these people were captives.
The analysis also found that at least five of the individuals had modified, elongated skulls — a shape that can be achieved by constricting a person’s head with bands when they are young. This was frequently practiced by the Maya and other ancient societies — including people in Japan, the Huns, medieval European women, and some Native American tribes — and may have raised the social status of those who underwent this practice, the archaeologists said.