Plastered human skulls are reconstructed human skulls that were made in the ancient Levant
between 9,000 and 6,000 BC in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
period. They represent some of the oldest forms of art in the Middle East
and demonstrate that the prehistoric population took great care in burying their ancestors
below their homes. The skulls denote some of the earliest sculptural examples of portrait
ure in the history of art
One skull was accidentally unearthed in the 1930s by the archaeologist John Garstang
in the West Bank
. A number of plastered skulls from Jericho were discovered by the British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon
in the 1950s and can now be found in the collections of the British Museum
, the Ashmolean Museum
, the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
, the Royal Ontario Museum
, the Nicholson Museum
in Sydney and the Jordan Archaeological Museum
Other sites where plastered skulls were excavated include Ain Ghazal
, and Tell Ramad
[The British Museum. "Plastered Skull."]
/ref> Most of the plastered skulls were from adult males, but some belonged to women and children.
The plastered skulls represent some of the earliest forms of burial practices in the southern Levant. During the Neolithic period, the deceased were often buried under the floors of their homes.
[ Sometimes the skull was removed, and its cavities filled with plaster and painted. In order to create more lifelike faces, shells were inset for eyes, and paint was used to represent facial features, hair, and moustaches.] [German, Senta. "The Neolithic Revolution."]
/ref> Some scholars believe that this burial practice represents an early form of ancestor worship, where the plastered skulls were used to commemorate and respect family ancestors.
[ Other experts argue that the plastered skulls could be linked to the practice of head hunting, and used as trophies. Plastered skulls provide evidence about the earliest arts and religious practices in the ancient Near East.
File:Plastered Skull, c. 9000 BC.jpg|Plaster skulls on exhibition at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem
File:Human skull from Beisamoun.JPG|Skull from Beisamoun on exhibition at the Moshe Stekelis Museum of Prehistory
File:The three plastered skulls in situ at Yiftahel.jpg|Plastered skulls in situ at Yiftahel, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
*D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
*J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)
*German, Senta. ‚
The Neolithic Revolution
‚ÄĚ Khana Academy.
''Five Plastered Skulls from Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Jericho: Anthropological Study''
Pal√©orient 1:1-2 (1973): 231-247.
Category:Archaeology of the Near East
Category:Collections of the Royal Ontario Museum
Category:Middle Eastern objects in the British Museum
Category:Collection of the Ashmolean Museum