The Skull Cult: Oldest rituals on Earth

Humans are living on planet earth as social animals from ancient times. What differentiates us from other creatures on the planet are our culture, rituals, and traditions. Every community has its own distinctive culture and traditions. Here, we are talking about one of the oldest ritual acts of the world.

“The Skull Cult”

Sinathropus pekinensis, Source: Locutus Borg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Skull cult is associated with the preserving and worship of human skulls by people in prehistoric times. It is still practiced by some modern tribal communities. The Skull cult ritual began in the early Palaeolithic era. In archaeological studies, the concept of “Skull cult” is not only used in the sense of intentional modification of human skulls but also points towards the contextual deposition of skull.
According to some researchers, the Skull cult symbolizes the ancient practices of cannibalism by early man. But most studies concluded that these skull practices were only associated with the worship of skulls after the death of a person or animal.

Also Read: Southern Africans domesticated sheep 2000 Years Ago: New Palaeoproteomics Study

Archaeological evidence shows that the animal skulls were also worshipped for various reasons. One such reason for the animal skull worship is hunting magic. But human skulls were usually worshipped to honour the ancestors and community warriors. Ethnographically, Community members thought that they save them from outer bad powers, curses of nature, etc.
In human archaeology, the eldest ritual acts were reported from the Chinese site of Zhoukoudian and associated with the Peking Man. Some of its researchers think that it is the site of the earliest documented victim of a ritual killing of the planet. Some think that the brain was removed from the skull for eating or any associated purposes.
There is one prominent piece of archaeological evidence found in the Bodo D’ar, Awash River valley of the nation-state of Ethiopia. There is 600000 years old Hominid evidence of Bodo cranium. It might be associated with homo heidelbergensis or the homo Erectus. There are some post mortem scratch marks that were made by stone tools in the possible process of defleshing.
The indigenous Sulawesi community of southeast Asia was also associated with similar practices before their conversion into Islam. In Northeastern Indian, the skull ritual is also associated with the Naga people. They used the hole to hang the skull on a cord. Also, in Prehistoric Anatolia, the skull cult was common.

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