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17 August 2008
Three Neolithic skulls found in Galilee

Archaeologists have discovered three 9,000-year-old skulls at the Yiftah'el dig in the Lower Galilee, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced. Experts said the placement of the skulls confirms the worship of ancestors from during that time, practiced by displaying skulls inside houses. The skulls were apparently placed on benches in a house where they would inspire the younger generation to continue in the ways of their forefathers. A similar custom was also identified in Syria, Turkey and Jordan.
     The skulls are 8,000-9,000 years old and were buried in a pit adjacent to an excavated large public building. They were discovered during excavations for a new highway interchange. "The skulls were found plastered that is to say sculpted which is a phenomenon that is identified with the Neolithic," said site director Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily. "The practice included the reconstruction of all of the facial features of the deceased by means of sculpting the skull with a variety of materials such as plaster that was specifically intended for this. On the skulls that were found in the excavation the nose was entirely reconstructed."
     The pit where the skulls were found showed depressions that probably were used for graves underneath floors. Dr. Khalaily explained, "Some time thereafter, the residents would dig up the grave, retrieve the skull from the rest of the skeleton and recover the grave. Later they would then mold the skull in the image of the deceased and keep it inside the house. This custom is known in the scientific literature as 'ancestor worship.'"
     The three molded skulls that were found at Yiftah'el join 15 other similar skulls that have been found to date.

Sources: Thaindian News (14 August 2008), Arutz Sheva (17 August 2008)

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