The Cranial Deformation Mystery

Elongated Skulls May Have Been Common Among the Ancients, But the Question Is Why?


Many of you may remember the old Saturday Night Live routine with Dan Akroyd and gang as the strange family of “Coneheads” (later made into a feature movie). This bizarre family of comical weirdos had long, bald heads that were about twice as long as a normal human head—heads that came to a sharp point at the top, hence the name “coneheads.”

As funny and strange as this may appear, such “coneheads” did, and do, exist! In fact, the remains of “coneheads” of various shapes and sizes have been found all over the world, from Peru and Mexico and the Pacific Northwest to ancient Egypt and China and beyond.

Museums in South America and elsewhere have occasionally exhibited an unusual elongated skull, but they are not particularly common in museums around the world. At the local museums along the southern desert coast of Peru, particularly the anthropological museum in Ica, were a wide variety of elongated skulls and even complete mummies of these people, sometimes with red hair. Similarly, statues with elongated skulls of the Atonists can be seen at the Cairo Archaeological Museum. Other museums, in Malta, Turkey, Iraq, Korea, Bolivia, Mexico, and elsewhere, have skulls with some sort of cranial deformation on exhibit. Many of them, however, are not on display. In some museums, such as the Archaeological Museum at Tiwanaku in Bolivia, photography is not allowed (although sneaky tourists have managed to take a few photos).

To the uninitiated, the deformed and extended skulls are rather shocking. They come in all shapes and sizes, some extremely elongated, and some rather squarish instead of pointed. Just exactly who these people were, why they reshaped heads, and how they created the odd modifications are something of a mystery. The skull elongations are the most prevalent; perhaps we should look into some of the various explanations for these coneheads.

The puzzle of why diverse ancient people—even on remote Pacific Islands—would use head binding to create elongated heads is mystifying. Where did they even get this idea? Did some people naturally look this way—with long narrow heads? Were they some sort of elite race that roamed the entire planet? Why do anthropologists rarely talk about cranial deformation and know so little about it?

There are two main types of cranial deformation with a number of subtypes, as we shall see. Mainly skulls are deformed by either being elongated or alternately flattened and made wider. The scientific term for people with elongated or flattened cranium is dolichocephaloid or brachycephaloid. We can call them cranially deformed, coneheads, or flatheads, but science will call them by the difficult-to-pronounce word dolichocephaloid.

There are a number of different theories on the people with elongated heads. It is generally assumed that most of the coneheads were originally normal human beings with normal heads. However, there is also the popular theory that some people naturally had elongated heads and just looked this way. Others then decided to imitate them and artificially create the unusual and sometimes startling elongated heads (as well as other types). Let us take a look at some of the different theories.

Atlantis and Nephilim-Watchers

One theory on these cranially deformed individuals is that they are remnants of the lost civilization of Atlantis. Atlanteans, for reasons unknown, it is argued, liked to have long, conical shaped skulls. According to this view, it was popular to have the head shaped in infancy to double the size of the skull and increase brain capacity.

It is thought that surviving Atlanteans, in their worldwide journeys, impressed other cultures with their high level of civilization and knowledge of all things psychic and scientific. Inhabitants of the colonies they founded, such as those in Mexico, Peru, and Egypt, began to imitate the Atlanteans and their unusual customs, such as head binding. A similar argument suggests that survivors of the lost continent of Mu in the Pacific also disseminated coneheads to South America and Mexico.

A related theory involves the “Watchers” mentioned in The Book of Enoch. They apparently also had elongated heads, and British researcher Andrew Collins believes that they originally came from Kurdistan in northern Iraq but also maintained communities in the mountains of Lebanon and other areas. These people were said to have tremendous knowledge and even the power of flight. They allegedly went all over the world in boats and airships.

The large boats of the Watchers need no real explanation—we see them in the large Phoenician, Arabian, and Chinese vessels known to exist. The airships of the Watchers are a stranger topic. They are the same as the famous vimanas of the epic Hindu texts, such as the Ramayana—airships in antiquity that could reach distant lands and are still familiar today to every Hindu and Buddhist.

This would help to explain why the practice of cranial deformation is so widespread. It can be found in ancient Sumeria, among the “Watchers” of Kurdistan, and among certain of the Egyptian royalty. This also fits in with the notion that the Olmecs and the Tiahuanaco culture of Peru (and Bolivia), that practiced head binding, were aligned with the remnants of the Atlantean civilization, sometimes called the Atlantean League.

This idea lends support to the theory of diffusionism and ancient seafaring that brought cultural influences across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Such unusual—yet widespread—customs as cranial deformation, turban wearing, jade worship, the making of keystone cuts in megalithic masonry, and trepanning can best be understood as having been transferred from one society to another by ancient contact between widely separated cultures.


According to one view, giant “space aliens” once came to our planet and helped shape ancient civilizations. Those extraterrestrials, it is said, had elongated heads and oriental features (such as narrow, slanting eyes, often called “coffee-bean eyes”) but did not artificially create elongated skulls. They looked like this naturally. They were seven to nine feet tall, or more.

Statues and other figurines found at ancient Sumerian sites in Iraq indicate that some of the inhabitants of the area had elongated heads and the puffy, slit-like “coffee-bean” eyes. Such figurines are thought to give the impression of a reptilian countenance and are today called “serpent priests” or “lizard” figurines by archaeologists. The question, though, is, were they humans or extraterrestrials? In the extraterrestrial school of thought, ETs were the overlords of primitive Earth populations, which possibly were genetically engineered by them and were highly admired by the humans who were their subjects. As these extraterrestrials returned to their own planet, goes the thinking, the humans left in charge decided to emulate the aliens who had elongated heads and looked distinctly different from normal humans; and they instituted the practice of skull deformation in order to try to look like the masters who had once ruled them.

The Mainstream

Mainstream science has no real explanation as to why so many diverse cultures took up the practice of head binding. Most concur that it was elitist practice to set some apart from the masses. Researchers have focused on the procedures used to produce the strange deformities. It seems that the skulls were created while the humans were still infants. For unknown reasons, infants would have had their heads bound with pieces of wood and rope, or some sort of constrictive cloth, that forced the heads to grow in an elongated and unnatural way.

While the plates in a baby’s skull would not have fused together yet, the skull was bound with materials that were adjusted and tightened as time went on. After several years of such binding, the youngster’s head was permanently growing in an elongated fashion; and once the child became several years old the skull had assumed a permanently elongated form and no longer required binding.

From this point on, the person’s head would continue grow in an elongated manner until growth stopped in the latter teenage years. Now the person had become an otherwise normal adult, except that he had an elongated skull and sometimes nearly double the brain capacity of other humans who had not had their heads so bound. According to Wikipedia, this was assumed to be “practiced in a number of cultures widely separated geographically and chronologically, and so was probably independently invented more than once.”

Trepanning and Other Skull Surgery

Like cranial deformation, there are the curious holes often cut into skulls worldwide. The process of drilling or sawing holes in the skull is called “trepanning,” and evidence of this practice has been found on elongated skulls as well as on normal skulls. Trepanning can be a round hole in the skull or a square hole made with four saw cuts into the skull. That people survived this ancient “brain surgery” is evident from skulls that have been found exhibiting further calcium growth around the holes.

Again, the question is why?

Many deformed crania found in South America and other areas have been found to have been trepanned. Though trepanning has been done to perfectly normal skulls, many of the elongated skulls have also been trepanned. Many of the skulls seen in South America have even had gold plates inserted in the trepanned hole. Because we can see that the bone material has grown over the gold plate, or otherwise healed, it is obvious that many of the patients went on to live for many years after their trepanning.

Why were they trepanned? We can only assume that they had headaches or voices in their head that needed expulsion. The popular orthodox theory is that trepanning was a type of brain surgery for ancient people with mental problems. These cultures believed that a person with a mental problem, such as schizophrenia or hearing voices, was possessed by evil spirits or the like. By cutting a hole in the mentally ill person’s head, they could free the evil spirits that were causing the problem, and the “patient” would hopefully get better. Did people with elongated skulls suffer from headaches and voices more than people with normal crania? We will probably never know.

On the other hand, there is the curious notion that a hole drilled in one’s skull can actually enhance one’s psychic abilities. As far as I know, this was first put forward into popular literature by the British author T. Lobsang Rampa in his 1960 book The Third Eye. In this book, the supposed true account of the author’s life as a doctor-in-training at a Tibetan monastery in the 1920s, Rampa reports that he had a hole drilled in his forehead while a young man to release his latent psychic powers.

Such surgeries were performed in the 1960s, as well, in Britain and Holland by a small group of eccentrics who believed that by opening holes in the tops of their heads, they would be permanently “high” and, theoretically, have enhanced psychic powers. British author John Michell chronicled some of these cases in his 1984 book Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions in a chapter entitled, “The People with Holes in their Heads.”

Michell said that the founder of the modern trepanation movement is a Dr. Bart Hughes from the Netherlands. Hughes made a discovery in 1962 that one’s state and degree of consciousness are related to the volume of blood in the brain. According to his theory of evolution, the adoption of an upright stance brought certain benefits to the human race, but it caused the brain to be partially starved of oxygen because of the effects of gravity and the difficulty of getting enough blood to the head. One can redress the balance by a number of methods, such as standing on one’s head, jumping from a hot bath into a cold one, or the use of drugs; but the wider consciousness thus obtained is only temporary. Bart Hughes believed that a hole in his head would permanently increase blood to his brain and help counter the effects of gravity.

In 1965 a Londoner named Joseph Mellen met Bart Hughes on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza and quickly became Hughes’ leading (perhaps only) disciple. He too drilled a hole in his head and wrote an obscure book a few years later titled Bore Hole. Later, Mellen met another eccentric Londoner named Amanda Feilding with whom he began living. She was impressed by Mellen and the hole in his head and decided to drill a hole in her own head. Feilding actually made a short film of her self-inflicted operation entitled Heartbeat in the Brain. In the film, Feilding shaves her head and then drills a hole with an auger, blood spurting out as she penetrates the skull (this film is now lost).

Making the Head So Much Larger

On the practical side, one must acknowledge that the elongated deformation of skulls does enlarge the size of the cranium and appears to allow the brain to expand to a much larger size than would otherwise be normal. Does this mean that people with dolichocephalous crania had bigger brains and were therefore smarter or more psychic than humans with normal crania? It is an interesting thought considering that we are often told by researchers that we don’t use the full capacity of our brains anyway. Someone with a larger skull and larger brain may be making more use of his brain, and some therefore have an advantage over people with normal-size brains.

While it is assumed that head binding will allow the cranium to enlarge and stretch, creating a larger volume in a skull than would be in a normal person, not all researchers believe that this is possible. Some researchers maintain that head binding would not enlarge the volume in a person’s skull as the amount of skeletal material would not increase, only the shape of the skull would change. Until more research is done on this subject, we will not have a definite answer on whether head binding can double the volume of a cranium.

So, we can surmise that the ancients practiced cranial deformation for a number of reasons. They wanted longer skulls to look different from normal people. They wanted to enlarge their brains, perhaps for psychic reasons. They wanted to imitate some sort of elite that were seen as superior to the normal peasants of the various regions where cranial deformation was practiced.

What is particularly interesting, and unexplained by the standard writers on the subject, is how and why cranial deformation was practiced in nearly every continent and includes groups of people on remote islands and remote jungles. How did this curious practice spread all over the world?

The preceding is an edited excerpt from the book The Enigma of Cranial Deformation and published with the author’s permission.

By David H. Childress

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