Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Andrew Nelson


The purpose of this study is to build on existing normative models of craniofacial growth and previous craniofacial studies of artificial cranial modification (ACM) in order to deepen the cultural and biological understanding of the this practice. Areas of concentration include a study of the biological changes to cranial epigenetic traits and facial metrics related to ACM, an examination of the biological effects of ACM in order to assess their implications on morbidity and mortality, and an investigation into the cultural motivations for ACM. Three hypotheses were tested: 1) ACM did not affect epigenetic trait incidence or facial metrics; 2) ACM increased morbidity and mortality of modified individuals; and 3) ACM was a marker of either social status or ethnicity. These hypotheses were addressed using quantitative and qualitative analyses of the craniofacial skeleton of ancient northern Chilean groups, including cephalometrics, craniometrics, various statistical analyses, and survey of specific epigenetic traits, pathological conditions, and grave goods. As well, these hypotheses were also addressed using various ACM typologies placed within the context of a “nested typology”. It was concluded that when ACM styles are pooled the effects of ACM are not discernable, but the results did demonstrate that the various ACM styles do affect epigenetic traits and some facial metrics. ACM did minimally affect morbidity and mortality within these samples. As well, ACM was not practiced solely as a marker of social status or ethnicity, and it was ultimately determined that motivations for practicing ACM were multifactorial.