An amateur digger might have been forgiven for thinking they had found one of the “Grey aliens” that UFO-spotters regularly claim to see. Instead, this was this was an example of “artificial cranial deformation,” or in layman’s terms, the practice of altering the head’s natural shape through force.
As odd as it seems, this was not a singular incident, or only representative of fifth-century practices, or something that only happened in France. Until the early 1900s, a form of artificial cranial deformation was still taking place in Western France, in Deux-Sevres. Known as the Toulouse deformity, the practice of bandeau was common amongst the French peasantry. A baby's head would be tightly bound and padded, to protect it from accidental impacts.
The "Toulouse deformity." Photo: Didier Descouens/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0
At around the same time, the practice was still occurring in Russia and the Caucasus, as well as in Scandinavia. It turns out that altering the shape of one's head is not shockingly unique; it's incredibly common, across time and geography - and a large chunk of human history.
Head Space: Behind 10,000 Years of Artificial Cranial Modification by Chris White, Atlas Obscura