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Recent Archaeological Digs Show the Remains of ‘Skull Cult’ in Turkey

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Gobekli Tepe, Turkey
Gobekli Tepe was a place where the people from the Stone Age use to gather around 9,000 years ago. Wikimedia
  • A study by the German Archaeological Institute suggested that Gobekli Tepe was a place of ritualistic significance
  • There were 691 fragments of bones at the site and 408 of them belonged to human skulls
  • There were no signs of decapitation and it was clear that the changes were made shortly after their death

Turkey, July 1, 2017: Gobekli Tepe was a place where the people from the Stone Age use to gather around 9,000 years ago. It was a time long before the kingdoms or the kings use to rule the lands.

A study by the German Archaeological Institute released in the journal ‘Science Advances’ suggested that Gobekli Tepe was a place of ritualistic significance performed by the early humans.

It is inevident that the people who were buried died there, but there were 691 fragments of bones and 408 of them belonged to human skulls. Moreover, according to the study the site also consisted of monolithic T-shaped limestone pillars and a stockpile of limestone sculptures. In fact, the research also shows the signs of deliberate modifications on the skull fragments.

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Deep grooves across the foreheads of the skull were also found and some skulls even had hole drilled into it. It showed the signs that the skulls were put on display so that the visitors could see them hanging. Though there were no signs of decapitation and it was clear that the changes were made shortly after the death of those people.

These kinds of remains were also found in other archaeological sites where the skulls were used to worship and in the ancient cities of Anatolia and Levant.

Anthropologists say that these practices were because people used human skulls for various reasons- some people used to worship ancestors, others thought the dead could protect the living and some groups also used skulls of their animals to display. They refer to these groups as ‘Skull Cults’.

Gobekli Tepe also seems to be one of the oldest skull cults that the researchers have come across till now.

– by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi

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Turkey: Prehistoric Site Bears Telltale Signs of Modern Woes

At its peak, 3,500 to 8,000 people lived there

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Turkey, Prehistoric, Modern Woes
Photo of researchers excavating the ruins of Catalhoyuk, June 18, 2019. Catalhoyuk's residents lived in clay brick structures akin to apartments, entering and exiting through ladders that connected the living areas of houses to the roofs. VOA

Overcrowding. Violence. Infectious diseases. Environmental degradation.

It may sound like the worst of modern mega-cities.

But people encountered these very same problems when the first large settlements were being established millennia ago as humans began to swap a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence for a lifestyle centered on farming, scientists said on Monday, based on findings from a prehistoric site in south-central Turkey.

The researchers examined 742 human skeletons unearthed at the prehistoric ruins of Catalhoyuk, inhabited from 9,100 to 7,950 years ago during a pivotal time in human evolution, for clues about what life was like at one of the earliest sizable settlements in the archeological record. At its peak, 3,500 to 8,000 people lived there, with the researchers calling it a “proto-city.”

Turkey, Prehistoric, Modern Woes
The researchers examined 742 human skeletons unearthed at the prehistoric ruins of Catalhoyuk. VOA

High rate of infections

The residents experienced a high rate of infections, as seen in their teeth and bones, probably caused by diseases spreading in crowded conditions amid challenges to proper hygiene, the researchers said. Overcrowding may have contributed to interpersonal violence. Many skulls bore evidence of healed fractures to the top or back of the cranium, some with multiple injuries.

The shape of these injuries indicates they may have been caused by hard clay balls found at Catalhoyuk that researchers suspect were used as projectiles from a sling weapon

“A key message that people will take from these findings is that our current behaviors have deep roots in the history of humankind,” said Ohio State University biological anthropologist Clark Spencer Larsen, who led the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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“The people living in this community faced challenges of life in settlements addressing fundamental issues: what to eat, who produces the food, how is the food distributed, what are the social norms for division of labor, the challenges of infection and infectious disease in settings where there is limited sanitation, the strategy of interpersonal relationships involving animosity in some instances,” Larsen added.

Weather played a role

As the world emerged from the last Ice Age, with warmer conditions conducive to crop domestication, there was a shift from foraging to farming beginning 10,000 to 12,000 years ago among people in numerous places.

The people grew crops including wheat, barley and rye and raised sheep, goats and eventually cattle. Some homes boasted wall murals, and other art included stone figurines of animals and corpulent women.

Catalhoyuk’s residents lived in clay brick structures akin to apartments, entering and exiting through ladders that connected the living areas of houses to the roofs. After death, residents were buried in pits dug into the floors of the homes.

Catalhoyuk, measuring about 32 acres (13 hectares), was continuously occupied for 1,150 years and appears to have been a largely egalitarian community. It was eventually abandoned perhaps because of environmental degradation caused by the human population and a drying climate that made farming there harder, the researchers said. (VOA)