Due to being sick with mono for the past month I unfortunately missed some of the lectures this semester and am now finally starting to catch back up. As I read through the PowerPoint slides from the past lectures I came upon the slides talking about the pre pottery Neolithic and the slides that involved the plastered skulls. I found these skulls kind of weird but mostly interesting. Having missed the lecture on them I decided to do some further research on my own to try and learn about them as well as figure out what their purpose was.
As I searched through the articles in the MSU libraries catalog I found one that talked a lot about their origins, characteristics, and theories for their existence. I learned that many of these skulls have been found; seventy-three approximately, in Jordan, Syria, Israel, and Turkey. They have had many different substances applied to them such as plaster, marl, animal collagen, shell and paint. These were applied in order to imitate facial or other features. Many of the skulls have been found in groups without the rest of their skeletons which made it hard for identify the sex of them. But we now know that they range for adult males and females to even children. Because of the lack of the postcranial skeleton many scholars assumed that this practice was evidence of ancestor cult worship. They assumed that the skulls belonged to toothless men who were elders and community leaders. This promoted the notion of the worship of old men and the importance of males in Neolithic society. However, due to recent scientific analyses this theory cannot be true because it contradicts the new evidence that these skulls also belonged to adult females and children. The skulls have been found in a variety of locations from abandoned house to caves to graves. Many of the skulls have been found with objects that have decorative and practical functions. It is speculated that these may have been included with the skulls because of their importance or usefulness to the dead and that they may have been needed in the afterlife. Because of the various locations and contexts as well as the recovery of funerary offerings it is suggested that they held multiple functions. Some of these may have included use as fertility devices or devices to ward off evil, or as mementos of the dead. All of the evidence found taken together doesn’t support the interpretation of a form of ancestor worship. But instead it supports that they were used in a type of funeral ritual.