Abstract The initial reaction of components of the craniofacial skeleton of a macerated human skull was studied after high-pull headgear traction. The applied forces were increased step by step from 0.5 N to 3.25 N per side (1N = 100 grams). Laser holography was used for measuring displacements in three dimensions in seventeen indicator points on the skull. These points were located near sutures or on the outer surface of individual bones. The skull was observed from the right frontal and from the left lateral side. Results indicate that displacements range from 0 μm to 17.0 μm, depending on force magnitude and on the location of the observed point. Individual components of the craniofacial skeleton were mostly displaced in a horizontal backward direction when the skull was viewed from the frontal aspect. Various compression and shearing patterns were observed in the craniofacial sutures, apparently depending on their spatial locations and intersutural surface morphology.