Balabanova M.A. Deformation of the Head as a Non-Verbal Code of Communication in the Traditional Peoples’ Cultures

DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu7.2016.4.23

Mariya Afanasyevna Balabanova

Doctor of Sciences (History), Professor, Head of Department of Archaeology, Foreign History and Tourism,

Volgograd State University

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Prosp. Universitetsky, 100, 400062 Volgograd, Russian Federation


Abstract. The article gives an overview of sources containing information on the practice of custom artificial deformation of the heads of the various peoples of the world, as well as analyzes the work of archaeology, ethnography and anthropology, studying this problem. The analysis of written, ethnographic and archaeological sources suggests that the ancient and modern peoples with traditional culture considered artificially modified form of the head as the code of non-verbal communication. Differentiation within a single society and individual ethnic groups in the form of the head, apparently played a key role in the indigenous peoples of Americas (the Incas, Mayans, Salish, Chinook, Choctaw, and others), the ancient and early medieval inhabitants of the South Eastern Europe, the Near East and Central Asia, South Siberia, Africa, Australia and Oceania. A modified form of the skull (head), on the one hand, was more aesthetically pleasing and fashionable, on the other hand, it demonstrated that its owner takes in the social stratification of the higher level, and the third – distinguished friend from foe. The custom of a fashionable trend could spread among the people, not to practice it through marriage contacts. Woman-bearer of this cultural trait, married to a man from the group, in which this custom was not practiced, could construct child’s head by the same type as hers. The peoples who practiced the custom of artificial cranial deformation, considered it as a code that is easily recognized at a meeting with his bearer, as was related to a person’s appearance. Based on the motivation that guided the representatives of different nationalities with the introduction of custom of deformed head, we can reveal the following basic functions of the somatic modifications: – marking (designation of age, gender, social or ethnic origin); – ritual and socializing; – aesthetic; – apotric (function of talisman).

Key words: custom of artificial deformation of head, ancient authors, the Sarmatians, the Incas, deforming construction, function of somatic modifications, nonverbal communication, code.

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Deformation of the Head as a Non-Verbal Code of Communication in the Traditional Peoples’ Cultures by Balabanova M.A. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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