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Wooden statue of a woman breast-feeding a child, North America

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This carved wooden statue shows a squatting North American Indian woman breast-feeding her child. Her distinct head shape is due to the practice of head flattening. It is also called ‘anterior posterior flattening’. This is the deliberate deforming of the head to increase skull height. Artificially changing the shape of the skull was practiced by several North, Central and South American Indian tribes. It was a process begun in infancy and achieved by either binding the head or strapping the child to a cradleboard. The skull became elongated over time by the gentle and consistent pressure.

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Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

Glossary: breast feeding

The process of synthesising milk from the breasts, usually a child from its mother.