Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/555

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539
HEAD-FLATTENING AMONG THE NAVAJOS.

the full-blooded infants of different ages of this tribe, I occasionally found one wherein I thought I could satisfactorily determine that the back of its head was unduly flattened, but it was by no means always the case.

Another thing must be remembered, and that is that these Navajo women do not always keep their infants thus strapped up in their cradles, and this fact goes to sustain that whatever pressure is brought to bear against the backs of their heads is not a constant one. We often see little Navajo babies playing about for hours together, and that at a time when they are scarcely able to walk.

Among the older children, as well as I could do so through their thick mats of hair, I have on one or more occasions satisfied myself that the hinder region of their heads was flattened, though it was but rarely the case that one was met with that exhibited this to a degree found in the skull figured in the present paper.

Such examinations as I have been enabled to make thus far very thoroughly convince me that this head-flattening is not due to the mode of strapping that part of the body employed by the Navajo mothers of the present day. In ages or generations gone by the ancestors of those Indians may have resorted to a very different method of fastening the infant's head in its cradle: perhaps it may have been more firmly fixed by thongs, and a pressure brought to bear upon the occiput, and that of a nature to produce the distortion in question; but so far as the writer is aware we have no such record for this tribe. How much heredity may have to do with it, then, we are not fully prepared to answer. And in any event we must bear in mind, when considering this matter, that the distortion, if it may be so termed, does not occur by any means in the skulls of all the representatives of the Navajos; nor is it limited to either sex; nor does it disappear as age advances; nor does the plane of the flattened surface of the occiput always bear the same relation to other planes of the skull, as the flattening may be central, or it may be more or less lateral, and so on; and, finally, it varies greatly in degree.

That skull-distortion, due to various modes of artificial presssure, is to be seen among divers peoples still in existence, as well as in the preserved skulls of former races that inhabited the earth, there can be no question; and it would seem, in the light of what we have attempted to bring out in this paper, that one of the most interesting points to decide with respect to it is whether such a feature can become hereditary.

At all events, the subject is full of interest, and will bear, it appears to me, further and fuller investigation.