Published on Jul 10, 2017
Jericho, also known as Tell es-Sultan, is a city with an incredibly rich history.
It is located in Palestine, near the Jordan River on the West Bank, some 55 kilometres from Jerusalem.
Officially catalogued as one of the oldest inhabited cities on the planet.
More than 20 successive settlements have been unearthed within Jericho, the oldest of which so far discovered, dates to around 10,000 BC over 12,000 years ago.
In Jericho, strange and mysterious death practices were performed, these practices stemming from an as yet, unknown origin.
As well as placing the deceased under the floors of their homes, the people of Jericho also engaged in other unique mortuary practices, in some of the most peculiar, skulls were removed from the bodies and covered with plaster attempting to create life-like faces, complete with eyes, in some cases made from shells, and painted to imitate the hair and other features.
The flesh and jawbones were removed from the skulls in order to model the plaster over the bone.
It is understood that the apparent goal of this peculiar technique, was to try and achieve a likeness of the deceased through the sculpting of the plaster.
It is thus believed, that the physical traits would therefore appear specific to the certain individual who originally owned the skull, suggesting that these decorated skulls were portraits of the deceased. Evidence has also suggested that the skulls were then displayed or stored with other plaster skulls.
The subtle modelling used to create the life-like flesh should be perceived as an impressive feat in itself, seeing as though we are meant to believe that these impressive, and artistically driven death masks, were made by a supposedly primitive people, as far back as 10000 years ago.
More than sixty plaster skulls have been found at six sites around the area of the Levant.
Usually dated to 7,000 – 6,000 BC, some however, have been dated as far back as far as 8,000 BC. One such skull was excavated in the 1930s by John Garstang, along with five other plastered skulls, which are currently in the Royal Ontario Museum.
Similar skulls were discovered by Kathleen Kenyon in the 1950s.
Other sites where plastered skulls were excavated include Ain Ghazal and Amman, Jordan, and Tell Ramad, Syria. Most of the plastered skulls are from adult males, but some belonged to women and children.
The traditional interpretation for the mortuary practice is that the skulls offered a means of preserving and worshiping ancestors. Some experts maintain that there is a religious aspect to the practice reflecting a belief that life continues after death.
However, it is possible that the skulls are not so much religious objects but rather powerful objects of remembrance to commemorate loved ones.
Another, more interesting theory is that the skulls were used as substitutes for the deceased to help ward off the return of the dead. Like some form of zombie repellent, regardless of their original purpose, they are certainly interesting in their own right.