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7 Ancient Customs That History Books Never Tell You

Ancient civilizations like Indus, Roman, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, etc. were all excellent. They built structures that amaze us till date. All the cultures are par excellence, even in the absence of so-called ‘modern technology.’ The ancient customs were full of wisdom and most of them are practical even at this age.

However, there are few customs that these civilizations and cultures followed that compel us to ask the question, “Why on earth do you do that?” Some of these customs are so crazy that we are happy that they are no longer in practice.

Today we will be talking about such customs that will either amaze you or give you creeps. So, get ready for a fun ride of “8 ancient customs that no history book ever tells you.” Are you ready?

Ancient Customs 1: High Heels

king Louis XIV wearing heels - ancient customs
King Louis XIV wearing heels, Link

If you think high heels are for women and high heels were created/invented for women, then you are so very wrong. High heels were actually designed for men! Yes, take the time to digest the fact.

They were supposedly invented in the 15th century in Persia. The purpose of high heels was to secure their feet to the stirrups. Europe picked this custom from Persians.

The aristocrats used to wear heels to look taller and formidable. In 1673, King Louis XIV wore shoes that had red heels and soles to the French court. He restricted this fashion to a minor section of nobles.

The new fashion trend spread like wildfire in Europe. Royals across Europe started wearing them as it became the symbol of privilege and superiority.

Ancient Customs 2: Crocodile Dung Makeup

crocodile - ancient customs

It may not be an overstatement if we say that Romans were the precursors of modern-day makeup. They used naturally available ingredients for their skin. One such natural ingredient is crocodile dung. Yes, it is gross, but it looks like it did what it was supposed to.  

Romans considered that the ideal Roman woman has extraordinary beauty and white skin to show that she spent most of her time indoors.

Everything was pitch perfect except for one thing. Romans had a complexion that was closer to olive and not ivory. To overcome this problem, they used to cake their face with a powder to whiten their face. The powder was made up of white lead, crocodile dung, and chalk powder.

Ancient Customs 3: Romans’ Mouthwash

mouthwash - ancient customs

Romans invented mouthwash back in those days. Before you marvel at their advancement, let us tell you that the mouthwash was nothing but “pee.” On top of that, they used the urine of both humans and animals to clean their teeth.

Before you make weird faces, the method of Romans has some scientific backing. Urine contains ammonia. It is used in many cleansing agents like fertilizers, bathroom cleaners, etc.

So, it does make sense that they used urine to clean their mouth. Apart from that, Romans used pee to wash clothes as well.

Also Read: 10 Crazy Superstitions!

Ancient Customs 4: Crushed by an Elephant

execution by elephant - ancient customs
Execution by elephant Public Domain, Link

Traitors or law violators were executed by elephants. Yes, it is indeed a painful and gross way of capital punishment. It was widely followed in South Asia, Southeast Asia, specifically in India. This form of capital punishment was also used in some parts of the western world.

In India, this form of capital punishment was called Gunga Rao. It was mostly used capital punishment in the middle ages. This mode of punishment continued well into the 19th century. It started declining in the latter half of the 19th century.

Ancient Customs 5: Blackened Teeth

blackened teeth - ancient customs
Blackened Teeth, Public Domain, Link

The very mention of teeth brings a vivid picture of correctly set teeth, which are pearly white in color. But, some of the ancient cultures had a totally different opinion on that.

They wanted black teeth. And how would they achieve black teeth? By dyeing their teeth. It was followed in parts of Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, South America, and especially in Japan.

Japanese’ ohaguro translates to blackened teeth. It was mostly followed by girls from a very young age. It was the symbolism that the woman is beautiful and sexually mature.

However, the original reason for blackening the teeth was to prevent decay. It is now known that the way the Japanese did was actually useful. It continued till the 19th century.

Ancient Customs 6: Eunuchs in Imperial Courts

imperial court

If you thought eunuchs like Varys of Game of Thrones exists in imagination or fanfiction, then you don’t history well. Eunuchs filled the courts of Chinese kings.

The Chinese penal system had something called Five Punishments. Castration was one of them. Sterilization was used as a punishment, and it was a way to get into the imperial court.

From the Han dynasty, eunuchs handled the day to day activities of the court. Just like Varys, they had immense political power and influence.

Chinese dynasts never feared the impotent as they can’t father any children (to claim the throne). The kings even allowed thousands of eunuchs to live in the Forbidden City as they knew their wives would get impregnated only by them. This tradition continued until the Sui Dynasty.

Ancient Customs 7: Children of the Yum Kaax


 Mayans had maize (corn) God called Yum Kaax. Yum Kaax was like the Venus of Romans and Greeks. Yum Kaax was considered the epitome of beauty.

Mayans used to elongate their skull to make it look similar to that of corn. To achieve this, they used to bind the heads of infants with boards of wood as this is the only stage where the skull could take any shape.

Mayans left the binding to do its work for around 6 months. The skull used to get the shape of a corn head. Deforming skull ritual was followed by other cultures as well.

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