WAS THE STARCHILD SKULL "CRADLEBOARDED"?
Cradleboarding and other forms of artificial skull deformation are often suggested as the reason for the unusual flattening at the rear of the Starchild Skull. A 2004 study lead by Dr. Ted Robinson concluded that the Starchild Skull is not the result of artificial deformation.
Cradleaboarding is the practice of strapping infants into cradleboards (shown right), which make it easy for the child to be carried, but causes the child's soft occipital bone (at the rear of the skull) to flatten like the board it is pressed against. Cradleboarding and all other artificial shaping techniques leave tell-tale signs on the bones of the skull, and none of them are able to change the shape or position of the inion (the small bump at the rear of all human skulls).
The Starchild Skull shows no evidence of artificial shaping, and the inion is totally missing. After careful review of the evidence, Dr. Robinson's team concluded that "the extreme flattening of the skull was caused by its natural growth pattern and is not artificial."
In other words, the unusual shape of the skull is not caused by cradleboarding or any other sort of intentional or accidental cranial shaping technique.
Cradle-boarding (or cradle boarding) is the practice of securing an infant to a cradleboard for safety and convenience, and in some cases for the deliberate purpose of cranial deformation. A cradleboard is a back-pack like apparatus used in some cultures to carry infants in the first year or two of life. It usually consists of a flat, hard back made of wood with textile or hide sides that can be secured together to hold the baby in place.
Cradleboarding can cause positional plagiocephaly, a condition resulting in abnormal flattening of areas of an infant's skull. It can also be caused by pressures from gestation and birthing, disease, or from pressure placed on the infant's head by actions such as laying with its head in one position. When an infant is cradleboarded, its soft skull conforms to the shape of the hard back of the cradleboard, leaving the occipital region (the back of the skull where it rests against the board) as smooth and flat as the board it rested against for the rest of the individuals life. This type of occipital flattening is termed "posturally produced flattening", and it is often suggested as the cause for the Starchild Skull's flattened occipital.
The Adult Female skull (above left) reportedly found with the Starchild was cradleboarded. Note that the shape of the skull is normal and round except for the perfectly smooth, flattened area from the inion (the natural lump at the back of the head, formed when the neck muscles attach) to the top of the head where the skull pressed against the hard back of the cradleboard.
The Starchild also has an abnormally shaped occipital, however, as can be seen in the images above right, the occipital does not have the perfectly smooth appearance produced by cradleboarding. While displaying normal convolutions, the Starchild skull's occipital is still notably flatter than that of a normal human skull. It also lacks an inion, the bony lump that is present on all human skulls regardless of cranial shaping. In the area where an inion ought to be, there is instead what Dr. Ted Robinson describes as an "atypical fossa," meaning a slight depression in the bone.
Finally, in order to attain occipital flattening to the extent demonstrated in the Starchild Skull using a device like a cradleboard, an infant would have to be strapped to the board in a manner that would cause asphyxiation. An infant's head would have to be tilted in a manner that forced the chin downward into the neck at so sharp an angle as to compress the wind pipe, preventing the infant from breathing and rapidly causing death. The Starchild Skull lived long enough to grow teeth and gind them down with use.