Head shaping was a common practice in the areas around the Black Sea in the first centuries ad. From there it spread into central and western Europe. By the fifth and sixth centuries ad it was widespread in Hungary and Austria, and occurred in rare cases as far west as France. Cranial modification is achieved by binding the head during early childhood when the bones of the skull are still incompletely mineralized and unfused. Ethnographic parallels show that head shaping was an aspect of childcare that required high levels of knowledge and involvement by those caring for children. It was frequently thought to provide benefits for the health, beauty, or intellect of the child. Skull modification suggests that concepts of the body varied among different early medieval populations, some of which considered the body as imperfect at birth and in need of improvement through social intervention.