Previous studies of head induction in the chick have failed to demonstrate a clear role for the hypoblast and anterior definitive endoderm (ADE) in patterning the overlying ectoderm, whereas data from both mouse and rabbit suggest patterning roles for anterior visceral endoderm (AVE) and ADE. Based on similarity of gene expression patterns, fate and a dual role in `protecting' the prospective forebrain from caudalising influences of the organiser, the chick hypoblast has been suggested to be the homologue of the mouse anterior visceral endoderm. In support of this, when transplanted to chick embryos, the rabbit AVE induces anterior markers in the chick epiblast. To reevaluate the role of the hypoblast/ADE (lower layer) in patterning the chick ectoderm, we used rostral blastoderm isolates (RBIs) as an assay, that is, rostral regions of blastoderms transected at levels rostral to the node. RBIs are, therefore, free from the influences of Hensen's node and ingressing axial mesoderm - tissues that are able to induce Ganf, the earliest specific marker of anterior neural plate. We demonstrate, using such RBIs (or RBIs dissected to remove the lower layer with or without tissue replacement), that the hypoblast/ADE (lower layer) is required and sufficient for patterning anterior positional identity in the overlying ectoderm, leading to expression of Ganf in neuroectoderm. Our results suggest that patterning of anterior positional identity and specification of neural identity are separable events operating to pattern the rostral end of the early chick embryo. Based on this new evidence we propose a revised model for establishing anteroposterior polarity, neural specification and head patterning in the early chick that is consonant with that occurring in other vertebrates.