Anthropomorphic depictions from Göbekli Tepe. (A) Intentionally decapitated human statue (height, 24 inches). Credit: Nico Becker, Göbekli Tepe Archive, DAI. (B) The gift bearer holds in his hands a human head (height, 10 inches). (C) Pillar 43 (building D) with low relief of an ithyphallic headless individual, one arm raised (bottom right). | Dieter Johannes and Klaus Schmidt, Göbekli Tepe Archive, DAI

An Ancient ‘Skull Cult’ in Turkey Practiced Rituals With Bones of the Dead

Three carved human skulls found in southeastern Turkey provide evidence of reverential — or sinister — rituals tied to what was previously thought to be a typical hunter-gatherer society.

Published On 06/30/2017
1:58 PM EDT
W W hen the ruins of Göbekli Tepe, meaning “Potbelly Hill,” were first discovered in Turkey in the early 1960s, the artifacts there seemed well matched to a typical hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Stone tools and animal bones for example were unearthed at the site, which also features pillars decorated with carved animal reliefs and other designs.
Skull fragments with cut marks. | German Archaeological Institute
A pillar from Building D at Göbekli Tepe | German Archaeological Institute
Aerial view of Göbekli Tepe | German Archaeological Institute