Head Flattening

Head flattening is the practice of permanently elongating the skull by wrapping young children's heads while their skulls are still forming. African cultures reshaped the skulls of their members to increase an individual's beauty and to improve social status. Among the people who practiced head flattening, an elongated head indicated a person's intelligence and spirituality. The Mangbetu people of the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo wrapped their babies' heads with cloth to elongate their skulls. Once the desired shape became permanent, the cloth was removed, and a woven basket frame was attached to the head at an angle, and the hair was styled over the frame to exaggerate the look of elongation.

Head elongation was also practiced in Oceania, especially on the islands of Vanuatu and Borneo, and in some parts of France. Between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century, the practice of head elongation fell out of favor among many of the peoples who had traditionally practiced it.


"Headshaping." Australia Museum Online. http://www.amonline.net.au/bodyart/shaping/headbinding.htm (accessed on July 31, 2003).

[ See also Volume 2, Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas: Head Flattening ]

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