Cultural Frameworks for Studying Artificial Cranial Modifications: Physical Embodiment, Identity, Age, and Gender

  • Vera Tiesler
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA, volume 7)


The human body, with its physical and psychological properties, figures both as a basis and mediator in all cultural interactions and, as such, is also affected by the social life it supports. Thus, its anthropological study, and that of its cultural modifications, does not only inform on morphological adaptation and plasticity but equally grants glimpses on society itself. Regarding archaeologically retrieved cultures of the past, permanent body enhancement is still evident in buried human bones and teeth, two body tissues that resist decomposition much longer than soft tissues. The bioarchaeological study of artificial modifications of hard tissues therefore provides invaluable insight into ancient customs and may hint at underlying cultural and social dynamics involved in their execution. This chapter explores broad concepts of cultural and social meaning that facilitate the linkage of past head-shaping practices and body modifications in general with social processes; namely, their role in the physical embodiment of ancient society, culture, identity, gender, and age. The concepts, detailed here, anticipate the more specific interpretations of meanings in Chap. 6.


Body modifications Body theory Identity Gender Age 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Ciencias AnthropologicasUniversidad Autonoma de Yucatan Facultad de Ciencias AnthropologicasMéridaMexico

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