The discovery of mysterious, 1,500-year-old egg-shaped skulls in Bavarian graves has stumped scientists for more than half a century, but now some genetic sleuthing has helped them crack the case: The pointy skulls likely belonged to immigrant brides who traveled to Bavaria from afar to get married, a new study explains.
The finding indicates that these long-headed brides, who lived in the sixth century A.D., likely traveled great distances from southeastern Europe — an area encompassing the region around modern-day Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia — to what is now the southern part of modern Germany. The long trek was certainly arduous, but the reward was great: Wedlock helped cement strategic alliances in medieval Europe, the researchers wrote in the study.
The discovery of the remains of these women perplexed archaeologists for decades. It’s only possible to create pointy skulls, scientifically known as artificial cranial deformation (ACD), in early childhood, when the skull is soft and malleable. But archaeologists couldn’t find any children with egg-shaped skulls in the cemetery. Moreover, the women were buried with local grave artifacts, rather than foreign ones, suggesting they had adapted to local culture.