Skull-cups and rit­ual can­ni­bal­ism at Gough’s cave 14,700 years ago

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ARCHAEOLOG­ICAL NEWS -

Anal­y­sis of an­cient ca­dav­ers re­cov­ered at a fa­mous ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site con­firm the ex­is­tence of a so­phis­ti­cated cul­ture of butcher­ing and carv­ing hu­man re­mains, ac­cord­ing to a team of sci­en­tists from the Nat­u­ral History Mu­seum, Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, and a num­ber of Span­ish univer­si­ties.

Gough’s Cave in Som­er­set (south west Eng­land) was thought to have given up all its se­crets when ex­ca­va­tions ended in 1992, yet re­search on hu­man bones from the site has con­tin­ued in the decades since. Af­ter its dis­cov­ery in the 1880s, the site was de­vel­oped as a show cave and largely emp­tied of sed­i­ment, at times with min­i­mal ar­chae­o­log­i­cal su­per­vi­sion. The ex­ca­va­tions un­cov­ered in­ten­sively-pro­cessed hu­man bones in­ter­min­gled with abun­dant butchered large mam­mal re­mains and a di­verse range of flint, bone, antler and ivory arte­facts.

New ra­dio­car­bon tech­niques have re­vealed re­mains were de­posited over a very short pe­riod of time, pos­si­bly dur­ing a se­ries of sea­sonal oc­cu­pa­tions, about 14,700 years ago.

The pres­ence of hu­man tooth marks on many of the bones pro­vides in­con­tro­vert­ible ev­i­dence for can­ni­bal­ism, the team found. The new ev­i­dence from Gough’s Cave sug­gests that can­ni­bal­ism was part of a cus­tom­ary mor­tu­ary prac­tice that com­bined in­ten­sive pro­cess­ing and con­sump­tion of the bod­ies with the rit­ual use of skull-cups.

Read more of this story at Past Hori­zons/ Gough’s cave

In­side Gough’s Cave

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