You might dread the idea, but the ancient Britons not only indulged in cannibalism but also drank from human skulls, a new research finds.
This gruesome discovery has been made in Gough’s Cave in Somerset, England, where researchers came across 14,700-year-old cups.
According to the scientists from the London's Natural History Museum, ancient Brits devoured on the dead and then skillfully designed human skull into cups to hold liquids.
“It’s impossible to know how the skull-cups were used back then, but in recent examples they may hold blood, wine or food during rituals.”--Chris Stringer, NHM professor and co-author of the study who also helped in excavation of one of skull-cups in 1987
Skull-cups meticulously designed
In the cave in Somerset, researchers came across three skull-cups crafted from the human skulls of two adults and one 3-year-old child.
The human bones had cuts, marks, and dents which indicate that skin and flesh was removed with sharp tools shortly after death.
Using stone tools, they first detached the head from the body. The cut-maker then removed all the face bones. Later the scalp was peeled before the skull top was detached from rest of the skull.
Further, the rough edges of the skull were smoothened to create skull-cups, stated researchers in the findings published in the journal 'PLoS ONE.'
Study’s lead author Silvia Bello, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, stated, “It shows, really, how skilled these people were in shaping the skull, and also the fact that it was a very complex ritual.”
He added, “All in all it was a very painstaking process given the tools available.”
Cups used for rituals?
Researchers believe that these vessels could have been used as bowls for liquids used for ceremonies performed thousands of years ago.
Chris Stringer, NHM professor and co-author of the study who also helped in excavation of one of skull-cups in 1987 stated, “It’s impossible to know how the skull-cups were used back then, but in recent examples they may hold blood, wine or food during rituals.”
There is a possibility that they did this in the honor of the person dead, “to celebrate their lives," added Stringer.
Skull-cups use well documented
This is not the first study to highlight the use of skulls as drinking vessels. In fact, the use of skull cups is well documented in history.
According to ancient Greek historians, Scythians used the skulls of their enemies as drinking vessels. Similar practice was observed by the Vikings, Australians, and Aborigines.
Further, there have been examples of skull cups in recent times too, like “in Tibetan culture, in Fiji in Oceania, and in India," said researchers.