modified skull


Among certain societies in Peru and Bolivia, it was a common practice to apply pressure to artificially deform the human skull. More generally, skull deformations carried out among communities across the world can achieve several forms: flat, elongated (produced by using two pieces of wood), rounded (binding in cloth) and conical, such as this example here. Typically, a month after birth, the baby’s skull is still soft, as the plates that compose it are not yet connected to facilitate childbirth. The child’s skull can then be bound with cloth for the next six months to alter its shape, which is considered to render the individual more beautiful. Museum records indicate that this particular skull was found at the turn of the century, supposedly having been dug up from an Indian grave on the Isle of Sol, which is on Lake Titicaca, bordering Bolivia and Peru (the Isle of Sol is on the Bolivian side).

The skull was brought to London from Peru by Eric Horniman, the son of Emslie John Horniman, who was, in turn, the son of wiki:world_gallery:layered_info:publish:people:frederick_horniman|Frederick Horniman, the founder of the Horniman Museum. Eric accompanied the distinguished anthropologist and ethnologist Alfred Cort Haddon, who was also the Museum's advisory curator, on his American expedition. He made some excellent collections himself, donating objects to the Horniman Museum from 1913-1932. According to correspondence with Dr Harrison – who was director of the Museum from 1904 to 1937 – on 8 March 1915 John Eric’s father donated the skull from Bolivia among other items to the Horniman Museum.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: