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In terms of the pre-Hispanic individual life cycle, head shaping appears as a customary practice carried out in childhood and perhaps performed by more than one person, as Maya iconography and historical sources point to. Socially, head shaping appears as a typical episode in the course of pre-Hispanic life, commemorated perhaps with ceremonies. The latter inference is suggested by artistic representations of deforming apparatuses, found on whistles and other musical instruments commonly used to accompany pre-Hispanic rites and ceremonies.

Head-shaping instrument in pre-Hispanic figurine (courtesy of the Popul Vuh Museum, City of Guatemala).