SKVLL CVLTS, where the dead are not gone or forgotten
October 11, 2017 1:13 PM   Subscribe

"Skull cult" is a term for rituals of human skull decoration and transformation during the Neolithic in the west between 9,000-4,000 years ago. In several archaeological sites, we find skulls that have been painted, perforated, and used for...something. In the first episode of Ars Technica's video short series Ancient People Did Stuff, Annalee Newitz summarizes what is known about the skull cults at Göbekli Tepe and Çatalhöyük, where some skulls were plastered and painted and painted red, though the reason or purpose is still unclear.

Both sites are in what is now Turkey, but possible evidence of cult practice that honored or memorialized all ages and sexes (preview only) was discovered in several homes of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (B) settlements and towns in Jericho, Yiftahel, Beisamoun, Kfar Hahoresh, ‘Ain Ghazal, Nahal Hemar, and other locations in the broad upper Mesopotamian region.

If you find the term "skull cult" too presumptive of the purpose, use and attention to the skulls, you can also refer to plastered human skulls, which are specifically reconstructed or decorated human skulls that were made in the ancient Levant between 7000 and 6000 BC in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period.
posted by filthy light thief (10 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Do we know yet whether they were the baddies?
posted by tobascodagama at 1:25 PM on October 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Cult of Skull, where the dead are dressed in grym tees
posted by FatherDagon at 1:27 PM on October 11, 2017

The purpose? To be metal! Duh..
posted by ocschwar at 1:41 PM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

This guy, obviously.
posted by Splunge at 2:22 PM on October 11, 2017

SKVLL CVLTS' first EPs in 2011 or so were really promising; they took the whole hazy, dayglo aesthetic to a new level. It's a pity they didn't seem to go anywhere after that.
posted by acb at 2:54 PM on October 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Çatalhöyük: why is there always a spare head when we reassemble the defleshed skeletons for interment

Cladh Hallan: a spare head? that's cute.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:40 PM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I joke because I would give just about any damn thing to be able to visit these incredible sites. This audiobook series gives a pretty good overview of the history of the period in the first couple of lectures.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:55 PM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Relevant Oglaf.

(N.B.: this particular comic is safe for work, most others on that site are very much not.)
posted by fermion at 11:34 PM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

In re-reading my post and thinking about the Ars Technica video that inspired this post, I feel that there's some key context missing:

1. Göbekli Tepe might be the world's first temple, predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, and featuring much finer ornamentation to boot; and
2. Çatalhöyük is notable as an early example of nomadic people becoming settled in place, and for the abundance of art, with the walls being repainted monthly or seasonally, plus it's unclear if Çatalhöyük had any leaders, but there are clear signs of rather brutal treatment of what were possibly lower class individuals.

In short, the decorated skulls are just part of what makes these locations so fascinating.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:20 AM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

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