Carved human skulls found at ancient worship center in Turkey | Science News

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Carved human skulls found at ancient worship center in Turkey

Ritual grooves are different from those discovered at other ‘skull cult’ sites

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2:00pm, June 28, 2017
Ancient Turkish ritual center

SKULL SITE  Excavations of this ancient ritual center (left) in Turkey dug up large stone pillars and stone carvings of animals, people and abstract symbols (right). New finds show that hunter-gatherers there altered skulls of the recently deceased in a previously unobserved way.

Hunter-gatherers who built and worshiped at one of the oldest known ritual centers in the world carved up human skulls in a style all their own.

At Turkey’s Göbekli Tepe site — where human activity dates to between around 11,600 and 10,000 years ago — people cut deep grooves in three human skulls and drilled a hole in at least one of them, say archaeologist Julia Gresky of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin and colleagues. Ancient hunter-gatherers there practiced a previously unknown version of a “skull cult,” in which human skulls were ritually modified after death and then deposited together, Gresky’s team reports online June 28 in Science Advances.

Collections of human skulls modified in other ways have been found at several sites from around the same time. For instance, deliberately broken faces on skulls were unearthed at a Syrian settlement and

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