The ancient Maya bound the heads of children to produce more prominent foreheads, which were seen as a mark of nobility. For much of Chinese history, women whose families aspired to a high social status frequently had the feet of female children bound and deformed into a lotus shape. Every year in the United States, thousands undergo cosmetic surgeries to augment breasts, remove fat, or reduce the size of their noses. Few of these changes are medically demanded. The reasons for these procedures are rooted almost entirely in cultural beliefs. With such strong obsessions for changing the human body, modern humans hardly distinguish themselves from their forebears. From circumcision to tattoos, humans have deliberately altered their bodies for thousands of years. This cross-cultural encyclopedia explores the many traditions associated with body alterations. The 109 articles are arranged by 43 areas of the body. Thus entries under skin include body piercing, branding, cutting, scarification, skin lightening, stretch marks, sub-dermal implants, tattoos and a cultural history of skin. While the primary focus is on invasive alterations to the body, most areas of the body are provided with an overview of associated beliefs and practices. Each essay elaborates on various cultural traditions, religious beliefs and medical practices. The distinct surgical traditions of both the Far East and South Asia are compared with Western medical practices. Folk practices from around the world illustrate different concepts of beauty, aesthetics and nature. In addition to surgical procedures, coverage extends to weight reduction, birth control and other procedures that alter natural processes without necessarily changing appearances. The scope also includes bloodletting, breastfeeding, cosmetics, footwear, ornaments and undergarments. In terms of content, there is some overlap between this guide and the recent "Encyclopedia of Body Adornment" (Greenwood, 2007), although the latter devotes more space to hairstyles, piercing, tattoos and transgender issues. Users, however, are likely to find their differing approaches complementary, as both are useful for exploring the astounding variety of cultural practices surrounding the human body.