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Chronologically, head shaping was present since Preclassic times. The patterns and preferred techniques were kept in the cultural repertory until the beginning of the Postclassic. Afterward, the range of techniques was reduced when tabular oblique deformation disappeared from the record. Rather than diminishing, head shaping actually increased slightly in the last horizon.

The results during the Classic show local and regional differences with marked dominance of oblique variants in the Lower Usumacinta region, for example, erect shapes in the Highlands and a marked preference for a mimetic technique at Copán. It is erect deformation that appears more frequently at higher levels in the social structure.

The fact that skull modification was necessarily carried out in the very first stages of infancy and the deformation scenes represented, lead me to believe that those who performed it were exclusively females. Perhaps that is why both female and male samples appear to be affected in the same way by the techniques used - in contrast to dental work, where men probably decorated men, and women decorated women, leading to different patterns between the male and female populations.


Head-shaping instrument used by the Chama (after Dávalos 1951).