Although burials are still not known at Göbekli Tepe, in recent years a total of 700 human bone fragments have been recovered from the fill of prehistoric buildings and adjacent areas. Anthropological analysis of this material by J. Gresky and J. Haelm from the Natural Science Department of the German Archaeological Institute is now beginning to reveal intimate details about the Early Neolithic populations at the site. Especially the fragments of three human skulls are shedding light on the treatment of the dead, which is suggestive of a previously unknown form of skull cult.
Deep grooves – made using flint tools – were carved into the surface of the skulls. In the best preserved cranium these carvings were accompanied by a carefully placed perforation (drilled hole). Modifications were essential for the purpose of decorating and displaying the human skulls. In this context, it can even be argued that the drilled perforation was used to suspend the cranium from a post or the beam of a building (perhaps even from a T-shaped pillar)!
- The research article J. Gresky, J. Haelm, L. Clare, “Modified human crania from Göbekli Tepe provide evidence for a new form of Neolithic skull cult” is published in Science Advances: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700564, published 28 June 2017, Sci. Adv. 3, e1700564 (2017): http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/6/e1700564
- Also check out the contribution by Andrew Curry at sciencemag.org: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/06/carved-human-skulls-found-ancient-stone-temple
- Department of Natural Sciences, Prehistoric Anthropology at the DAI: http://www.dainst.org/standort/95515
- Project page: Anthropology at Göbekli Tepe: http://www.dainst.org/projekt/-/project-display/2048601