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Mystery Skulls

Strange Artifacts


The Mystery of the Starchild Skull

© A. Chow 2006
Presented with permission

Investigate the theories relating to the unusual shape of the Starchild skull. Identify the most compatible theory and support it with available evidence.

Seventy years ago, in a village southwest of Chihuahua in Mexico, two human skeletons were discovered by a teenage girl in a mine tunnel. One was a normal human skeleton and the other was a smaller deformed skeleton. Only the skulls of both skeletons were recovered and remain today. Lloyd Pye, an anthropologist, is the current owner of the skulls. Carbon 14 dating has proven the skulls were 900 years old. The smaller deformed skeleton’s skull shape was unusual and its features severely distorted (figure 1), hence the name Starchild skull.

Figure 1: Front view of the Starchild skull (on the left)
and the human skull (on the right).

The Starchild fascinated many from anthropologist to surgeons, ophthalmologist to neuroradiologists. Several theories emerged over the years: those of human-alien hybrid, cranial binding and genetic defects.

Initially there were thoughts that the unusual shape of the skull was due to cranial binding practiced throughout South America, where the skulls were located. However there were no signs of forced compressions leading to deformations normally caused by binding of the skull. Binding that took place in South American cultural groups always occurred above the inion, the most prominent projecting point of the occipital bone located at the base of the skull.3 In the Starchild’s case, the flattening of the skull extended past the inion (figure 2).

Figure 2: The back of the skull is flat past the inion.

This proximity to the spine was unattainable by normal skull binding. If the deformities of the skull were caused by binding, there would have been deformities evident in the frontal region of the skull, which was not visible. Furthermore, binding of this kind would leave a soft spot at the crown of the head, yet the Starchild skull was well sutured. Thus there is insufficient evidence to suggest the Starchild skull’s unusual shape was caused by cranial binding.

Pye, the skull owner, believed that the Starchild was a human-alien hybrid.1 The theory intrigued many people. Pye asserted that many of the features of the Starchild were alien in origin. The depths of the eye sockets of the skull were shallow and distorted from the normal position. Ophthalmologists Dr. Tony Townsend and Dr. Hugh Parsons established that the Starchild would have had eyeballs bulging off the face.5 ‘The Starchild’s neck would have been one-third to a half the width and volume of a normal neck because the foramen magnum was shifted forward an inch from its position in a normal skull.’8 This placed the Starchild skull into the shape and position of the “Gray” alien (figure 3).9

Figure 3: The “Gray” Alien

The skull had small teeth with new teeth resting in the bone above, ready to drop down or to replace worn ones, just as aliens would.10 Radiologist Dr. David Hodges and Pediatric Neuroradiologist Dr. Ken Poskitt found the brain inside the skull was 1600 cubic centimetres, 200 c.c. bigger than the standard adult size of 1400 c.c. Radiologist Dr. John Bachynsky found the Starchild did not have hydrocephaly (the increased accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the ventricles of the brain) as there was no sign of erosion in the inner table of the skull. Believers of the alien theory dismissed Crouzon’s syndrome because there was no physical abnormality of the brain. Furthermore, ‘in paleoanthropology (the study of ancient animals) a 200 cc increase in brain capacity of a human type creature warranted the naming of an entirely new species’.7

Furthermore, Dr. Ted Robinson, a well-respected cranio-facial plastic surgeon declared that the Starchild could not be classified into a human deformation of any category.4 He reported “I undertook an extensive review of current literature on cranofacial abnormalities, which failed to uncover a single similar example”.5 Dr. Robinson and Vancouver researcher Chad Deetken noted that the lighter bone density of the Starchild skull was uniformly 40% of normal human density.6 The symmetry of the skull was astoundingly high, an unusual feature in cranial pathologies.7 Pye believed that, given the line of reasoning, the Starchild was of alien descent. He insisted “there was nothing to account for it, because we’d been through every book that we could find about human deformities and there was nothing like it.”2

However all of the ‘evidence’ provided by Pye and alien theorists was merely a presentation of the differences between the Starchild skull from normal skulls. Hard evidence as to differences in DNA materials has not been presented. DNA testing has been interfered with due to soil acidity of the cave, where the Starchild skull was buried. A skull of 900 years old and left submerged in the ground, would have been exposed to the weather, and have reacted to the minerals in the ground. Thus the shallow eye socket and lighter bone density of the skull might have been the result of erosion by the rain water, or reactions to acids or ground minerals. Indeed, the skull had been exposed to an acidic substance with iron content.22

There was no scientific evidence that the ‘Gray’ alien existed.11 The fact that Dr. Robinson or Pye had not previously encountered a medical case of the Starchild skull did not lend support to the Starchild being of alien descent. The image of the “Gray” alien was conjured up, in line with small and shallow eye sockets with bulging eyes as recognised in exorbitism (protrusion of eyeball) (Dihaj et al, 2005, Altintas et al, 1999).12

The reduced neck size probably represented a variant of the norm and was not unique as has been documented (Ali et al, 2002). London dentist Dr. Matthew Wilson reported ‘the roots of teeth not erupted were consistent with those of a child who was about 4˝ yrs old’ after close-up x-ray images of the maxilla (figure 4).5 Baby teeth and impacting permanent teeth were typical for a child aged four or five at time of death.13

Figure 4: X-ray of the Starchild skull (left) compared to an X-ray
of the human skull (right)

The reported increase in brain volume in the Starchild is not unheard of in the present society, since it occurs in genetic abnormalities such as autism (Aylward et al, 2002). Anthropologist Dr. Michael Galanty stated that he “didn’t see anything that looked so outlandish that I couldn’t – I wouldn’t – expect to exist”.14 Anthropologist Dr. Julian Murchison commented that Pye “didn’t convince me that all other possibilities had been accounted for”.14 One skull alone is insufficient evidence to constitute an alien race.

The theory that the Starchild skull was the result of a congenital defect is the typical explanation for any misshapen human-like skull. Congenital (present at birth) deformities are usually due to genetic aberrations, an unfavourable environment within the womb or some unknown reasons. Genetic defects are often responsible for arbitrary deformations. Specialists Dr. Ted Robinson, Dr. Mike Kaburda, Dr. David Hodges, Dr. Ken Poskitt, Dr. Tony Townsend, Dr. Hugh Parsons who studied the skull found unusual characteristics about the Starchild. 5 'When asked if any known genetic defect could cause such an unusual cranial deformation, no expert consulted thus far could name any.’15 Furthermore, the Starchild's skull was symmetrical and a cranial deformity such as Plagiocephaly was 'an unsymmetrical condition of the head due to irregular premature obliteration of coronal suture'.16 The experts were not able to link the genetic defect to anything they had previously come across.

Though congenital deformities commonly only affect one area of the skull and the Starchild had many deformities17, there is insufficient evidence to rule out genetic defects as a cause for cranial deformities. While the experts who studied the skull were not able to classify the Starchild into any category of genetic defects, they also could not confirm that no such genetic defect existed.

Extensive research of genetic defects found that symmetrical cranial deformities exist. ‘Craniosynostosis refers to the early closing of one or more of the sutures of an infant's head’18, brachycephaly included. Brachycephaly (Figure 5 & 6) is a recently well documented condition of the head shape (Sakurai et al, 2001, Hutchison et al, 2004, Graham et al, 2005).

Figure 5: Brachycephaly

Figure 6: Patient with Brachycephaly
Image provided courtesy of
Cranial Technologies,

It ‘describes a head that although symmetrical, is abnormally shaped’19, just as the Starchild skull is symmetrical. Brachycephaly is caused by bilateral coronal synostosis (the union of separate bones by bony tissue)23 and sleeping on the back. The Premature closing of both coronal sutures (line of union in an immovable articulation between two skull bones)23 also causes Brachycephaly (figure 5). The Starchild skull had no soft spots as the skull was well sutured.7 When photographs of the Starchild skull (figure 7) are compared to sketches of Brachycephaly (Appendix 1) striking similarities in skull shape are apparent. The Starchild skull fits into the signs and description of Brachycephaly.

Figure 7: Compare striking similarities with the Starchild skull
and pictures in the Severity Assessment for Brachycephaly (Appendix 1)

Figure 8: Patient with Crouzon’s syndrome

Through personal communication with Dr. Patricia Hummel, a specialist on infant head shapes (Hummel et al, 2005), Dr. Hummel agreed the Starchild had severe brachycephaly. Furthermore, Dr. Jeffrey A. Fearon from The Craniofacial Center commented that ‘The skull shape is clearly brachycephalic (short from front to back).’ He ‘suspects some kind of chromosomal anomaly, which may have involved the metopic suture (which would explain the eyes being closer together).’ Current researched evidence suggests strongly that the Starchild suffered from a congenital defect, specifically Brachycephaly and exorbitism. The evidence supports the fact that the Starchild was not an alien, as it suffered from various human congenital defects that are known and well documented.


© A. Chow 2006
Ancient History


1 Pye, L. Bean, M. (2006).The Starchild Project. [on line]. Accessed 12/3/2006. Available:<>

2 UFO Casebook Domain. (2004). Alien Skull Mystery Continues. [on line]. Accessed 1/3/2006. Available:<>

3 Farlex. (2005). Inion. [on line]. Accessed 1/3/2006. Available:<>

4 Pye, L. (2002). Starchild Update. [on line]. Accessed 28/2/2006. Available:<>

5 Robinson, T. (2006). Preliminary Analysis of a 'human like' skull. [on line]. Accessed 28/2/2006. Available:<>

6 Pye, L. (2000). UFO Enigma. [on line]. Accessed 28/2/2006. Available:<>

7 World-Mysteries. (2006). Mystery Skulls. [on line]. Accessed 28/2/2006. Available:<>

8 Hooper, B. Pye, L. (1999). Essays. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<>

9 Pye, L. (1999). The Starchild Debate. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:< >

10 Pye, L. (2005). Lloyd Pye’s Starchild Project. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<>

11 Unexplained Mysteries. (2006). Grays. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<>

12 Tip Top Website. (2006). Craniosynostosis. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<>

13 Pye, L. Bean, M. (2006).The Starchild Project. [on line]. Accessed 12/3/2006. Available:<>

14 W*USA 9 & Gannett Co., Inc. (2004). Alien Skull Mystery Continues. [on line]. Accessed 12/3/2006. Available:<>

15 Hooper, B. Pye, L. (2004). The Starchild Project. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<>

16 Fung, K. Glossary on osseous malformations of the skull and vertebral column. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<

17 Zarkonnen. (2004). Starchild Skull. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<>

18 Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery. (2006). Craniosynostosis. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:< >

19 Med-Policy. (2006). Cranial Orthosis. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:< http://>

22 McDonald, W. (1999) Forensic Faces. [on line]. Accessed 21/2/2006. Available:<>

23 Venes, D. Thomas, C. Taber, C. (2005). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. The F.A. Davis Company.

Dihaj S, Abada A, Baha Ali T, Benhaddou M, Rais L, Hamdani M, Amraoui A, Zaghloul K. (2005). Apert syndrome: a reported observation. Pubmed.

Altintas AG, Gul Aksoy FG, Altintas CS, Midillioglu IK, Duman S. (1999). Evaluation of findings in Crouzon's syndrome. Pubmed.

Ali FE, Al-Bustan MA, Al-Busairi WA, Al-Mulla FA, Esbaita EY. (2002). Cervical spine abnormalities associated with Down syndrome. Pubmed.

E. H. Aylward, PhD, N. J. Minshew, MD, K. Field, BA, B. F. Sparks, BS and N. Singh, BS. (2002). Effects of age on brain volume and head circumference in autism. Pubmed.

Hutchison BL, Hutchison LA, Thompson JM, Mitchell EA. (2004). Quantification of plagiocephaly and brachycephaly in infants using a digital photographic technique. Department of Pediatrics, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Pubmed.

Graham JM Jr, Kreutzman J, Earl D, Halberg A, Samayoa C, Guo, X. (2005). Deformational brachycephaly in supine-sleeping infants. Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA.

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