c. 1935

Three Padaung women play cards.

Image: Keystone/Getty Images

The Kayan Lahwi people, also known as Padaung, are a minority ethnic group with populations in Burma and Thailand. Padaung women are famous for their distinctive custom of wearing brass coils around their necks.

As the women grow, the coils are lengthened, compressing the rib cage and displacing the collarbone, creating the illusion of an extremely long neck.

The origin of this custom is a bit mysterious. Some have theorized that it is a way to make the women less attractive to slave traders, or to protect the throat from tigers. The most commonly accepted explanation is simply that a long neck is considered a mark of great beauty. Read more…

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