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Earliest-known intentionally deformed human cranial fossil from Asia and the initiation of hereditary hierarchy in the early Holocene

By Xijun Ni, Qiang Li, Thomas A. Stidham, Yangheshan Yang, Qiang Ji, Changzhu Jin, Khizar Samiullah

Posted 26 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/530907

Hereditary hierarchy is one of the major features of complex societies. Without a written record, prehistoric evidence for hereditary hierarchy is rare. Intentional cranial deformation (ICD) is a cross-generational cultural practice that embodies social identity and culture beliefs in adults through the behavior of altering infant head shape. Therefore, ICD is usually regarded as an archeological clue for the occurrence of hereditary hierarchy. With a calibrated radiocarbon age of 11245-11200 years BP, a fossil skull of an adult male displaying ICD discovered in Northeastern China is among the oldest-known ICD practices in the world. Along with the other earliest global occurrences of ICD, this discovery points to the early initiation of complex societies among the non-agricultural local societies in Northeastern Asia in the early Holocene. A population increase among previously more isolated terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene hunter-gatherer groups likely increased their interactions, possibly fueling the formation of the first complex societies.

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