10,000 Years of Artificial Cranial Modification

jeudi 28 mai 2015

Changing the shape of one’s skull is shockingly simple. The cranial bones of an infant or young child are pretty soft and take years to knit together. Applying pressure during that time can reshape the skull, which becomes permanent when the bones reach maximum growth and then harden. The practice doesn’t appear to affect cognitive function. And what’s most amazing is that different cultures around the world have been independently doing cranial modification from antiquity all the way up to the present.

Until the early 1900s, a form of artificial cranial deformation was still taking place in Western France, in Deux-Sevres. Known as the Toulouse deformity, the practice of bandeau was common amongst the French peasantry. A baby's head would be tightly bound and padded, to protect it from accidental impacts. At around the same time, the practice was still occurring in Russia and the Caucasus, as well as in Scandinavia.

It turns out that altering the shape of one's head is not shockingly unique; it's incredibly common, across time and geography. Its meaning isn't fixed, so understanding why and how it happens can reveal much about the societies who choose to change the shape of their heads.

Atlas Obscura looks at several of those cultures and indeed the very universality of deliberate cranial modification. -via the Presurfer

(Image credit: photographer unknown, restoration by Didier Descouens)

10,000 Years of Artificial Cranial Modification

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