It seems every decade or so researchers are able to pull the curtain back on time and have an inside look at lost civilizations. South America is a treasure trove when it comes to discovering artifacts once belonging to a long-forgotten time. It was here, in South America, that researchers found something never previously discovered.
Archaeologists from the University of North Carolina found the bodies of two infants. The ages are estimated to range from six to nine months old, and they suspect that they succumbed to illness.
However, it wasn’t how the two died that caught the eyes of researchers, but rather it was what they were wearing when buried that has made headlines.
According to IFLScience, that two had on “headgear” formed from human skulls, an event that has never been documented before and gives insight into how this culture buried its dead. That culture, which is believed to be the Guangala, flourished in the southwest coast of Ecuador around 100 BCE.
“As far as we know, this is the only example of this practice anywhere in the world,” said Sara Juengst, a UNC researcher. “[However], including extra heads in burials is not so uncommon in pre-hispanic South America, either as trophy heads made from enemies, or as ensuring links to ancestors.”
The burial site the UNC research team found also brought up additional questions. For one, there were seashells and hand bones in between the “headwear” and the deceased infant. Secondly, researchers are questioning if the Guangala were the only ones to use this unique burial ritual or if it was something the area did, regardless of tribe.
A large portion of the researchers from UNC have argued the death was due to illness or malnutrition and the headgear is simply a burial tradition.
However, another small group of researchers are claiming the area was subject to erupting volcanos and the headgear could have been worn to protect the infants.
With that said, these researchers surmised that the helmet would block incoming debris launched from the volcano.
The researchers plan to use the rest of the year to determine what actually happened to the infants and what the “headwear” was used for.