The Bioarchaeology of the Human Head:
Decapitation, Decoration, and Deformation

Edited by Michelle Bonogofsky

Foreword by Clark Spencer Larsen
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"A valuable survey of the many ways that human heads have been taken, modified, and curated by various cultures around the world. Good critical reviews of the context and meaning of human head collecting across time and space. Includes some innovative analytical techniques for determining the origins and identities of disembodied heads."--John W. Verano, Tulane University

"A welcome contribution to the growing literature of anthropological perspectives of the human skull."--John Krigbaum, University of Florida

Building on the notion that human remains provide a window into the past, especially regarding identity, the contributors to this volume reflect on intentional and ritualized practices of manipulating the human head within ancient societies. These essays explore the human head’s symbolic role in political, social, economic, and religious ritual over the centuries.

By focusing on the various ways in which the head was treated at the time of death, as well as before and following, scholars uncover the significant social meaning of such treatment. This illuminating collection highlights biological and cultural manipulations of human heads, ultimately revealing whose skulls and heads were collected and why, whether as ancestors or enemies, as insiders or outsiders, as males, females, or children.

Featuring a wealth of case studies from scholars across the globe, this volume emphasizes social identity and the use of the body in ritual, making it particularly helpful to all those interested in the cross-cultural handling of skulls and heads.

Michelle Bonogofsky is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the editor of Skull Collection, Modification and Decoration..
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“A welcome addition to the growing literature seeking to bring together symbolic and scientific studies of the human body.” Journal of Anthropological Research

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