Cranio-facial clefts in pre-hispanic America

Clin Genet. 2015 Oct;88(4):336-8. doi: 10.1111/cge.12619. Epub 2015 Jun 16.


Among the representations of congenital malformations in Moche ceramic art, cranio-facial clefts have been portrayed in pottery found in Moche burials. These pottery vessels were used as domestic items during lifetime and funerary offerings upon death. The aim of this study was to examine archeological evidence for representations of cranio-facial cleft malformations in Moche vessels. Pottery depicting malformations of the midface in Moche collections in Lima-Peru were studied. The malformations portrayed on pottery were analyzed using the Tessier classification. Photographs were authorized by the Larco Museo.Three vessels were observed to have median cranio-facial dysraphia in association with midline cleft of the lower lip with cleft of the mandible. ML001489 portrays a median cranio-facial dysraphia with an orbital cleft and a midline cleft of the lower lip extending to the mandible. ML001514 represents a median facial dysraphia in association with an orbital facial cleft and a vertical orbital dystopia. ML001491 illustrates a median facial cleft with a soft tissue cleft. Three cases of midline, orbital and lateral facial clefts have been portrayed in Moche full-figure portrait vessels. They represent the earliest registries of congenital cranio-facial malformations in ancient Peru.

Keywords: Peru; facial cleft; medicine history; moche culture.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology
  • Art / history*
  • Cleft Lip / history
  • Cleft Lip / pathology
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / history*
  • Face / abnormalities
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Lip / abnormalities
  • Peru