The woman is believed to be a part of the Silla culture, which ruled much of the Korean peninsula for almost a thousand years (from 57 B.C. to A.D. 935). This grave was uncovered in Gyeongju, the historic capital of the Silla Kingdom. Modern Korean culture has been greatly influenced by this royal dynasty. According to Dong Hoon Shin, a bio-anthropologist at Seoul National University College of Medicine in the Republic of Korea, despite its long reign and extensive cultural influences, few burials with intact skeletons have been uncovered from this dynasty perhaps due to the intrinsic soil composition in this region of the world.

What caused this ancient woman to have such a long skull?

While it is true that skull deformation is an ancient practice performed by several cultures throughout the world, researchers have concluded that it is unlikely this woman’s head was deliberately elongated, and was rather the result of a strange medical anomaly.

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According to author, Eun Jin Woo, a physical anthropologist at Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea, the research team ruled out this theory because in the case of deliberate mutilation, the bones in the front of the skull are flatter and the resulting pressure from the deformation causes the bones on the side of the skull to compensate by accelerated growth.

The team conducted extensive research to reach their conclusions.

When discovered, the skull was shattered and the team painstakingly reconstructed the facial features and head shape based on these fragments. Results indicated the woman’s head width was about 75% of its length, which is known as dolichocephalic. For comparison, modern people in this region are brachycephalic, meaning the widths of their heads are at least 80%of the head length.

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The team also extracted the woman's mitochondrial DNA and learned that she did indeed belong to the Silla genetic lineage. Further analysis of the carbon isotopes in the skeleton also revealed a diet which was strictly vegetables, which is not at all uncommon for the Buddhist rituals of that time and place.

The discovery of the skull has brought new meaning to an age-old question; Why the long face?

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