Neolithic Halloween?: Plastered Human Skulls and the Origins of Agriculture in Near Eastern Neolithic Villages

March 19, 2014. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Ian Kuijt, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame.

For many years researchers have debated the purpose and meaning of Neolithic human skull removal and plastering in the Near East.  Recent fieldwork has documented the wide-spread use of these practices some 10,500 years ago, and clearly identified that the elaborate manipulation of the dead was central to ritual and mundane life within the world’s first agricultural villages.  Human skulls, often found in groups, were occasionally covered in clay plaster in such a way to recreate eyes, noses, ears and other facial features.  It is clear that Neolithic people used skulls as heirlooms, and through such manipulation created tangible connections to the past.