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Cannibals of the South Seas
Description: A film showing rituals on Tomman Island, situated about one mile off the southwestern coast of Malekula in the Republic of Vanuatu. Probably extracted from Among the Cannibal Isles of the South Pacific (1918) by Martin Johnson

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Clip #: TFA-78B
Length: 4:02
Year: 1918
Color: B/W
Sound: Silent
Library: TFA Network
Decade: 1910s
Filmmaker: Martin & Osa Johnson
Region: South Pacific
Country: Vanuatu
Subject: Native Life
Original: 16mm
Cannibals Men walking down beach with spears, pan across group, CU several fierce looking men, one with bone through nose, men and women running in a circle with spears and rifles, dancing procession style, CU woman with bay with bound wrapped head, Tomman Island, CU young boy and men with elongated skulls, old man with beard, group walks away from camera

Head flattening, also called head binding, head shaping or head moulding, is the application of pressure or bindings to cranial bones (the human skull) to alter their shapes. Flat shapes, elongated ones (produced by binding between two pieces of wood), rounded ones (binding in cloth) and conical ones are among those chosen. It is typically carried out on an infant, as the skull is most pliable at this time. In a typical case (Tomman Island in Australia) headbinding begins approximately a month after birth and continues for about six months. Usually it is a part of a cultural ritual, aimed at creating a skull shape which is aesthetically more pleasing or associated with desirable attributes such as intelligence. For example, in the Nahai-speaking area of Tomman Island and the south south-western Malalukan mainland opposite (Australia), a person with a finely elongated head is thought to be more intelligent, of higher status, and closer to the world of the spirits.

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