i think plastered skulls is a pretty cool guy. eh sits in the dirt and doesn't afraid of anything
September 29, 2009 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Plastered Skulls! In the Middle East in the early Neolithic, one common burial practice involved digging up a previously-buried body, removing the skull, and using plaster over the skull itself to sculpt an image of the face of the deceased. Many seem to think these skulls were made as a form of ancestor-worship, but some disagree. Three such skulls were discovered a little over a year ago at Yiftah’el, in the lower Galilee. Here's a short article about the find. Here's a brief overview of prehistoric and early historic art, which features a really swell picture of a plastered skull.
posted by Greg Nog (9 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble


I followed all links, and read the articles, and really have nothing to say other than this is cool and I want this done to my head when I am dead.

Lends a whole new meaning to "getting plastered."
posted by cjorgensen at 10:58 AM on September 29, 2009

Really interesting, and the picture in the last link reminds me quite a bit of 4th Dynasty Egyptian reserve heads, which I've had the mind-boggling opportunity to research before. Strangely (?), I've never heard of a connection between the two practices. I might actually go consult an Egyptologist about this, like right now.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2009

(Really not trying to self-link, but since you asked...) You can see what I was working on over at Projects. My work was geared toward middle and high school kids, but I worked under a guy who does real-person research on them, and was encouraged to run around in all of the published scholarship. Basically, short version, no one has any idea what they are.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:19 AM on September 29, 2009

Is it odd that when I saw this picture I let out an "ooooh" sound akin to when I see kittens?
posted by Partario at 12:21 PM on September 29, 2009

Wow. It's like an inverse death mask. You could make a death mask from the plastered skull and have like, totally recursive veneration.

posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:27 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have never heard of this either. Thanks Greg Nog.
posted by shothotbot at 12:57 PM on September 29, 2009

wow, cool!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:27 PM on September 29, 2009

I love these! And if you like the plaster skulls, you'll probably also like the incredible plaster statues made by the same people at 'Ain Ghazal and Jericho. Some of them are almost a meter tall!

Bonus trivia: if you want a parable for our times, some scholars suggest that this amazing developing culture that had exisited for over 2000 years destroyed itself by abusing it's natural resources. They fall off the radar and it takes another couple thousand years for a new civilization to emerge there (I'm not an expert on this though so I can't vouch for it's accuracy, though we did study it at uni).

oinopaponton makes an interesting comment comparing the skulls to Egyptian reserve heads. I'm certain that there's no direct inspiration, but I think they probably stem from the same impulse. (I'm an Egyptologist btw) Everyone debates what the reserve heads actually are, but a number of Egyptologists believe that they were related to ancestor cult, which is exactly what the plaster skulls relate to.
posted by Kirjava at 8:33 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

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