"Off with their heads": skull removal in the prehistoric Near East

Author(s): Nigel Goring-Morris; Anna Belfer-Cohen

Year: 2016


While there is a huge difference in every aspect of existence between simple human societies, i.e. hunter-gatherers and complex ones, i.e. industrial groups, the head is always considered as the residing place of the essential part of what defines ‘us’ as rational human beings at the individual level. One may thus assume that this was the case also in prehistoric times, which at least partially explains the special treatment of heads that one can observe through millennia, from the pre-agricultural societies of the Natufian (beginning ca. 15k years calBP) through the end of the Neolithic period (ca. 7k years calBP) in the Near East. Indeed, this custom is one of the few clear-cut examples bridging between the prehistoric pre-agricultural, early agricultural and even pastoral societies throughout the region. We shall attempt to place this practice within a broader perspective, trying to see how and why it continued through the turbulent times of changing lifeways occurring at the Paleolithic-Neolithic transformation.

Cite this Record

"Off with their heads": skull removal in the prehistoric Near East. Nigel Goring-Morris, Anna Belfer-Cohen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403812)


Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;