Artificial cranial deformation

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Proto Nazca deformed skull, c 200-100 BC
Landesmuseum Württemberg deformed skull, early 6th century, Allemannic culture
Painting by Paul Kane, showing a Chinookan child in the process of having its head flattened, and an adult after the process.

Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force. Flat shapes, elongated ones (produced by binding between two pieces of wood), rounded ones (binding in cloth) and conical ones are among those chosen. It is typically carried out on an infant, as the skull is most pliable at this time. In a typical case, headbinding begins approximately a month after birth and continues for about six months.

History[edit]

Elongated skull of a young woman, probably an Alan.
Methods used by the Mayan people to shape a child's head.

Intentional cranial deformation was once commonly practised in a number of cultures widely separated geographically and chronologically and still occurs today in a few places, like Vanuatu.

Intentional human cranial deformation is believed to predate written history. The earliest suggested examples include the Proto-Neolithic Homo sapiens component (9th millennium BC) from Shanidar Cave in Iraq[1][2][3] and also among Neolithic peoples in Southwest Asia.[4] Originally, the Neanderthal skulls found in the Neanderthal component of Shanidar Cave were believed to have been artificially deformed representing the oldest example of such practices by tens of thousands of years, but this later proved to be incorrect. The cranial remains of specimen Shanidar 5 were newly reconstructed in 1999 by the anthropology team of Chech, Grove, Thorne, and Trinkaus where it was discovered the original reconstruction of the skull was in error. As a result the team concluded "we no longer consider that artificial cranial deformation can be inferred for the specimen".[5]

The earliest written record of cranial deformation dates to 400 BC in Hippocrates' description of the Macrocephali or Long-heads, who were named for their practice of cranial modification.[6]

Paracas skulls

In the Old World, Huns[7] and Alans[8] are also known to have practised similar cranial deformation. In Late Antiquity (AD 300-600), the East Germanic tribes who were ruled by the Huns, adopted this custom (Gepids, Ostrogoths, Heruli, Rugii and Burgundians). In western Germanic tribes, artificial skull deformations have rarely been found.[9]

In the Americas the Maya, Inca, and certain tribes of North American natives performed the custom. In North America the practice was especially known among the Chinookan tribes of the Northwest and the Choctaw of the Southeast. The Native American group known as the Flathead did not in fact practise head flattening, but were named as such in contrast to other Salishan people who used skull modification to make the head appear rounder. However, other tribes, including the Choctaw,[10] Chehalis, and Nooksack Indians, did practise head flattening by strapping the infant's head to a cradleboard. The Lucayan people of the Bahamas practised it.[11] The practice was also known among the Australian Aborigines.

Maya modified skull exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.

Friedrich Ratzel in The History of Mankind[12] reported in 1896 that deformation of the skull, both by flattening it behind and elongating it towards the vertex, was found in isolated instances in Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii, and the Paumotu group and occurring most frequently on Mallicollo in the New Hebrides (today Malakula, Vanuatu), where the skull was squeezed extraordinarily flat.

Deliberate deformity of the skull, "Toulouse deformity". Band visible in photo is used to induce shape change.

In the region of Toulouse (France), these cranial deformations persisted sporadically up until the early twentieth century;[13][14] however, rather than being intentionally produced as with some earlier European cultures, Toulousian Deformation seemed to have been the unwanted result of an ancient medical practice among the French peasantry known as bandeau, in which a baby's head was tightly wrapped and padded in order to protect it from impact and accident shortly after birth; in fact, many of the early modern observers of the deformation were recorded as pitying these peasant children, whom they believed to have been lowered in intelligence due to the persistence of old European customs.[15]

Methods and types[edit]

Deformation usually begins just after birth for the next couple of years until the desired shape has been reached or the child rejects the apparatus (Dingwall, 1931; Trinkaus, 1982; Anton and Weinstein, 1999).

There is no established classification system of cranial deformations. Many scientists have developed their own classification systems, but they have not agreed on a single classification for all forms that are seen (Hoshower et al., 1995).

In Europe and Asia, three main types of artificial cranial deformation have been defined by E.V. Zhirov (1941, p. 82):

  • Round
  • Fronto-occipital
  • Sagittal.

Motivations[edit]

Cranial deformation was probably performed to signify group affiliation,[16] or to demonstrate social status. This may have played a key role in Maya society.[17] It could be aimed at creating a skull shape which is aesthetically more pleasing or associated with desirable attributes. For example, in the Nahai-speaking area of Tomman Island and the south south-western Malakulan (Australasia), a person with an elongated head is thought to be more intelligent, of higher status, and closer to the world of the spirits[citation needed]

Health effects[edit]

There is no statistically significant difference in cranial capacity between artificially deformed skulls and normal skulls in Peruvian samples.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/paleo_0153-9345_1992_num_18_2_4574
  2. ^ Trinkaus, Erik (April 1982). "Artificial Cranial Deformation in the in Shanidar 1 and 5 Neandertals". Current Anthropology 23 (2): 198–199. doi:10.1086/202808. JSTOR 2742361. 
  3. ^ A. Agelarakis, "The Shanidar Cave Proto-Neolithic Human Population: Aspects of Demography and Paleopathology", Human Evolution, volume 8, no. 4 (1993), pp. 235-253.
  4. ^ Christopher Meiklejohn, Anagnostis Agelarakis, Ralph Solecki, Philip Smith, Canada), Peter Akkerman , "On the Origins of Cranial Artificial Deformation in SW Asia", Paleorient, Volume 18 (1992), pp. 83-97; K.O. Lorentz, Ubaid headshaping, in R.A. Carter and G. Philip, Beyond the Ubaid (2010), pp. 125-148.
  5. ^ http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/paleo_0153-9345_1999_num_25_2_4692
  6. ^ Hippocrates upon Air, Water, and Situation: upon Epidemical Diseases, trans. Francis Clifton (1734), pp. 22-23.
  7. ^ Facial reconstruction of a Hunnish woman, Das Historische Museum der Pfalz, Speyer
  8. ^ Bachrach, Bernard S., A history of the Alans in the West: from their first appearance in the sources of classical antiquity through the early Middle Ages, U of Minnesota Press (1973), pp. 67-69
  9. ^ Doris Pany and Karin Wiltschke-Schrotta, Artificial cranial deformation in a migration period burial of Schwarzenbach, Lower Austria, VIAVIAS, no. 2 (Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science 2008), pp. 18-23.
  10. ^ "Choctaw Indian History". Accessgenealogy.com. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  11. ^ "Lucayan–Taíno burials from Preacher's cave, Eleuthera, Bahamas - Schaffer - 2010 - International Journal of Osteoarchaeology - Wiley Online Library". Onlinelibrary.wiley.com. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  12. ^ Ratzel, Friedrich (1896). "The History of Mankind". MacMillan, London. Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  13. ^ Delaire MMJ, Billet J (1964) Considérations sur les déformations crâniennes intentionnelles. Rev Stomatol 69: 535–541
  14. ^ Janot, F, Strazielle, C, Awazu Pereira Da Silva, M, Cussenot, O (1993). Adaptation of facial architecture in the Toulouse deformity. Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy, 0930-1038, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01629867
  15. ^ "Chapter II : Later Artificial Cranial Deformation in Europe". Bioanth.org. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  16. ^ Gerszten and Gerszten, 1995; Hoshower et al., 1995; Tubbs, Salter, and Oaks, 2006.
  17. ^ Gerszten and Gerszten, 1995
  18. ^ Martin Frieß, Michel Baylac (2003). "Exploring artificial cranial deformation using elliptic Fourier analysis of procrustes aligned outlines" 122 (1). American Journal of Physical Anthropology. p. 18. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ellen FitzSimmons, Jack H. Prost, Sharon Peniston, "Infant Head Molding, A Cultural Practice", Arch Fam Med, Vol 7, Jan/Feb 1998
  • Adebonojo, F. O., "Infant head shaping". JAMA, 1991;265:1179.
  • Henshen F. The Human Skull: A Cultural History . New York, NY: Frederick A Praeger, 1966

External links[edit]