In the Chinookan tribe, head binding (also known as artificial cranial deformation) occurred when an elite child, male or female, was first born, and it was the responsibility of the parents to ensure this practice was followed.

The cradle head boarding technique would create an inclination from the eyebrows up to the crown. A raised ridge would also be present from ear-to-ear following this practice. Essentially, the indication of a flat head not only implied a higher status (and possibly intelligence or spiritual elevation) but it was also intended to reinforce social hierarchy for the Chinookans. In their culture, people with round heads could be, and often were, enslaved – or at least looked upon with disdain. Thus, high-standing mothers were expected to perform this procedure to show that they cared for and did not neglect their children – like most mothers, they wanted them to be accepted by their peers.

The Chinookan tribe were not the only people to participate in the performance of artificial cranial deformation. A similar ritual was performed among the Maya people, as they believed a flat, longer head was one of the more desirable traits to possess. Further, according to ancient written sources—the Classical Greek writer Hippocrates in particular—the practice was performed as far back as 400 BC, and known by other cultures around the world.

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This content was originally published here.

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Michael Bourdon


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