History Religion, Pain, and Social Status: Mind-Blowing Facts About Ancient Coneheads  

Christopher Myers
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Many people know "The Coneheads" as a family of aliens whose antics were documented on Saturday Night Live, but there's more truth to those sketches than you may have imagined. Were coneheads real? Many anthropological digs have uncovered human skeletons with elongated skulls – but they weren't born that way. They underwent a body modification called "skull elongation." These real coneheads have been found all around the globe, coming from many different civilizations.

The custom of skull elongation involved binding the skulls of infants with wood or cords. As they grew, the cranium would become elongated and appear cone-like. This artificial cranial deformation is also known as head flattening or head binding. It has been practiced for thousands of years, and that history is the basis for these conehead people facts.

Some people believe that these conehead remains are actually a separate species or even extraterrestrials. While that is certainly something to consider, the practice of skull elongation is well documented. Why someone would intentionally deform a child's skull in this manner is another question. What is the purpose of this ritual, and how did it come to be practiced by so many different cultures? Can it really explain all the instances of this deformity that have been discovered? The true origins of the practice remains an enigma to this day, but these ancient conehead facts unravel some of the mysteries surrounding their existence.

Skull Elongation Was Practiced By Many Cultures Around The World


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Interestingly, the practice of skull elongation has been found in many peoples from a multitude of different and unconnected cultures. The Mangbetu tribe of Africa, the Huns of Asia, and the Chinookan tribes of North America all practiced it. Elongated skulls have also been discovered in Mexico and Australia.

It Took Anywhere From Six Months To A Few Years To Achieve The Desired Effect


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Photo: Rivero and Tschudi/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Because their skulls are still in the process of forming even after birth, cranial deformation is practiced on infants. About a month after a child was born, its head would be bound between two wooden planks... or strapped to a cradleboard... or attached to really whatever a particular culture decided would achieve their desired shaped. Then, it would be continually applied for a period of time spanning anywhere from six months to a few years; the amount of time just depended on the desired outcome and shape.

Some Cultures Came Up With Cool Hairstyles To Emphasize The Shape Of Their Heads


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Photo: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

The Ancient Mayans were notorious for their cutting-edge fashion choices, and these included jewels in their teeth, forehead elongation, and zany, elaborate hairstyles to show off their noggins. To emphasize the length of their foreheads, men would burn a receding hairline into shape, and women would weave intricate braids and ribbons into their hair. Hair choices could simply dress up an already masterfully elongated skull.

A Long, Flat Head Was Considered A Mark Of Beauty By Many Of Its Practitioners


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Photo: National Museum of World Cultures/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Mangbetu tribe of Africa, in particular, styled their hair to emphasize their elongated skulls in order to make them look more beautiful. The skull elongation was a mark of beauty and status in the Congo region, which in turn inspired the hairstyles. The tradition was still practiced until the mid-1900s when it was outlawed by the government.