Carved Skulls flesh Out Neolithic Cult Evidence

by Luke Higgins

A pillar from one of the buildings excavated at the Turkish Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe, where newly-discovered carved skulls point to unique ritual treatment of the dead. (Credit German Archaeological Institute (DAI))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fragments of uniquely carved skulls — at least one of which may have also been decorated — have turned up at one of Turkey’s most important Neolithic sites. Investigation into how the skulls were modified, and what they might have been used for, points to a skull cult that’s the first of its kind in the world.

The archaeological trove of Göbekli Tepe sits on an artificial hill in southeastern Turkey. It’s a complex of monumental buildings with enormous pillars, many of them carved with animals and other symbolic art. Artifacts at the early Neolithic site date back nearly 12,000 years. (Some perspective: It’s older than Stonehenge by about 6,000 years.) Researchers have long believed the site was a ritual center important to hunter-gatherers living in the region at the time.

(Rutus Alter 71 available @ DETECNICKS)

At other Neolithic sites in the region, skulls appear to have been collected and sometimes decorated with plaster or ochre. At the Neolithic city of Çatalhöyük in southern Turkey, bodies — some holding ornamented skulls — have been found buried beneath homes.

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