Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Skull modification around the world

Arawe skull lengthening in Papua New Guinea  Mangbetu skull elongation in DRC
Head binding on Arawe infant Mangbetu infant with head binding
The scifi illustration Through the Gate was inspired by elegant Mangbetu head shapes and hair-styles.

A (non-exhaustive) list of cultures that practiced head shaping for aesthetic or social reasons:

People Continent Description
ChinookNorth AmericaFor Chinookan people, who lived on both sides of the Columbia River from its mouth to The Dalles, the head flattening process started at birth and continued until the child’s forehead was permanently reshaped.1
TillamookNorth AmericaThe aristocracy of the Tillamook of Oregon, USA practiced skull flattening on infants.2
Shoalwater Bay TribeNorth AmericaThis tribe from Washington, USA, practiced skull flattening on individuals of chiefly lineage into the late 19th/early 20th century.3
MayaCentral AmericaThe Mayans had several styles of head modification, which may be status-related.4
TiwanakuSouth AmericaPeople of the Tiwanaku Empire of Peru/Bolivia/Chile had apparatuses for reshaping the cranium.5
MangbetuCentral AfricaThe Mangbetu ethnic group of DRC practiced an elegant style of skull elongation into the 20th century.6
AraweOceaniaThe Arawe of Papua New Guinea practiced head-binding to lengthen infants' skulls.7

  1. Chinookan Head Flattening - The Oregon History Project
  2. Ruby , Robert H. ∓ Brown, John A.(1992), A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest, p241
  3. Ruby & Brown, (1992) A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest, p191
  4. Kellye French, Head Shaping of the ancient Maya at Wild Cane Cay and Moho Cay, Belize
  5. University of Florida - Cranial Deformation
  6. Mangbetu People
  7. Pitts River Museum - Head Shaping: lengthening

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