Artificially Deformed Crania From the Hun-Germanic Period (5th–6th Century AD) in Northeastern Hungary

Historical and Morphological Analysis

Mónika Molnár, M.S.; István János, Ph.D.; László Szűcs, M.S.; László Szathmáry, C.Sc.


Neurosurg Focus. 2014;36(4):e1 

In This Article


The aggregate data of the crania are presented in Table 2. According to the taxonomic analysis, all 9 of the skulls indicated the main characteristics of the Europid "great race." None of them showed any Mongoloid features, which also appeared in the ancient population history of the Carpathian Basin, especially within the Huns, Avars, and ancient Hungarians. Due to the combination of different race characteristics within the Europid great race, more precise determination was not possible.

In the case of the Ároktő Csík-gát site, the age at death was exactly determined because the juvenile individuals could be analyzed on the basis of the degree of epiphyseal union of their long bones. In contrast, there were 4 skeletons (Nos. 40, 42, 49, and 220) in the cemetery of Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c, for which the age at death could only be given in very wide intervals due to the lack of age indicators except for the endocranial suture closure. Besides the traces of the artificial intervention, no other pathological changes could be observed in the skulls. The possible causes of death might not have been connected with the intentional cranial deformation practices. The descriptions of the 9 artificially deformed skulls are given with the name of sites and grave numbers indicated as follows.

Ároktő Csík-gát, No. 166

This skull is that of a 21- to 25-year-old man (Fig. 2). Whereas the neurocranium could be well analyzed, the splanchnocranium is missing. Due to the intervention, the tuber parietale on both sides shifted slightly toward the sutura sagittalis and the occipital bone became precipitous in the posterior third of the sutura sagittalis. A 40-mm-wide bandage, which may have been the main bandage encircling the cranium, can be assumed to have run above the tuber frontale and around the lambda region. It is very probable that another bandage was also used during the modification, which left a shallow groove right behind the bregma region on the calvaria as well as on the occipital bone running on the sutura squamosa. In this case the OGŽ index could not be determined due to the lack of the cranial base; however, a moderate deformation (macrocranic) can be suggested. The type of the deformation shows an obvious circular erect form.

Figure 2.

Photographs showing artificially deformed crania from the Ároktő Csík-gát site: Grave No. 166 (A); No. 166/a (B); No. 168 (C).

Ároktő Csík-gát, No. 166/a

This cranium could not be completely analyzed either, but the neurocranial deformities could be well observed (Fig. 2). This skull of a 21- to 25-year-old woman was artificially deformed in the same way (although more extensively) as is described with the individual in Grave No. 166. The value of the OGŽ index is 105.6, which represents a heavy cranial modification (hypermacrocranic). This skull also denotes an unambiguous circular erect form of artificial deformation, which was achieved using a simple bandaging technique.

Ároktő Csík-gát, No. 168

This cranium with a typical erect deformation is that of a 15- to 17-year-old female (Fig. 2). The head was considerably deformed with one 30- to 40-mm-wide, circular bandage, which probably ran right above the lambda region and along the squamosal suture on the parietal bones as well as above the frontal tubers on the frontal bone. According to the OGŽ index (101.3), the cranium was heavily deformed (hypermacrocranic).

Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c, No. 40

This complete skull of a 40- to 80-year-old man was presumably modified using one bandage. The occipital bone is markedly precipitous (Fig. 3). The OGŽ index (88.3) refers to a slightly deformed cranium. The skull deformation is classified as a circular oblique type, but the use of some rigid element on the frontal and occipital bones can also be presumed.

Figure 3.

Photographs showing artificially deformed crania from the Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c site—I: Grave No. 40 (A); No. 42 (B); No. 49 (C).

Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c, No. 42

This male cranium shows a close morphological similarity to the skull from Grave No. 40 (Fig. 3), and the technique applied in the artificial modification is also analogous (including the use of one bandage). The calculated age at death is 40–80 years. The OGŽ index represents a slightly lower value (82.35) than that in the former individual, so this skull is also slightly deformed. The type of deformation is circular oblique.

Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c, No. 49

The skull of this 30- to 60-year-old woman (Fig. 3) was presumably deformed using a sort of rigid plate that was depressed with a bandage above the frontal eminences on the frontal bone (flat area with a 30- to 35-mm diameter). The traces of the bandage are also apparent at the lower third on both temporal bones, and can be noticed 30 mm above the sutura squamosa. The grooves run from the coronal suture toward the sutura lambdoidea. In this case a circular erect, slight cranial deformation is suggested in view of the low value of the OGŽ index (84.56).

Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c, No. 50

This cranium is that of a 37- to 46-year-old man (Fig. 4). Between the two frontal tubers, a 75-mm × 35-mm plain area may be observed, probably due to the usage of some rigid tool (for example, sheet metal or a table made of wood). Although the cranium is classified as the tabular oblique modification because of the observable coronal depression, it can be assumed that the skull may have been modified by applying a double bandaging technique. According to the OGŽ index (90.85), medium deformation is suggested.

Figure 4.

Photographs showing artificially deformed crania from the Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c site—II: Grave No. 50 (A); No. 61 (B); No. 220 (C).

Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c, No. 61

This 35- to 55-year-old woman's skull with tabular erect deformation is presented (Fig. 4). The forehead and the nape are plain. On the occipital bone an especially depressed 45 × 50–mm area was found. The frontooccipital depression was most likely produced by applying some sort of firm instrument (for example, sheet metal or table) fastened with a bandage. The cranium is slightly deformed (OGŽ index 88.67).

Nyíregyháza M3, 36/c, No. 220

This cranium of a 40- to 80-year-old woman is a typical case of the tabular oblique deformation (Fig. 4). A 45 × 42–mm area on the occipital bone can be observed due to the pressuring procedure carried out using a sort of rigid instrument. The forehead is also flattened and strongly inclined. The skull is medium deformed (OGŽ index 92.63).