4,300-year-old bodies were found in California graves with extra skulls – some with signs of strange grave rituals

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Archaeologists have found evidence of terrible practices, including severed heads and polished skull caps in an old cemetery site in central California.

While digging a Marsh Creek area in Northern California, the researchers found eight tombs where the 'trophy heads' seemed buried next to the organs of the community members.

Recreation of one of the graves found in Marsh Creek, California

Ancient warriors received "Cup heads" to mark victories and murders. Seven other skeletons, missing heads, were discovered. But instead of entering the next world as trophies by warriors, the analysis of bones suggests that the extra skulls may belong to the ancestors of buried people. In fact, experts believe that the skulls in the graves may belong to mothers of people.

Dr. of the University of California. Jelmer Eerkens leads Marsh Creek excavations. The site borders the northeastern edge of the Diablo Line, a seasonal stream that begins near the eastern summit of Diablo Mountain and flows into the California Delta.

There are about 500 graves on the site, and radiocarbon dating shows that the region has been inhabited for at least 7,000 years, although the graves themselves were built more recently 4,300 to 2,950 years ago.

“Confrontation is a powerful image in human societies both today and in the past,” says Dr. Eerken. ‘Trophy heads are prominently featured in the iconography of many ancient chiefs, states and empires, both in America and beyond. Indeed, in almost all cultural areas of America, except Patagonia, there are human trophies. ”

Marsh Creek village and tombs were unearthed during construction in 2002.
Preparation of a development project near the town

Grave 107 is an adult man between the ages of 35 and 45 at the time of his death. His head was buried with two other men facing a hole, and there was no evidence of physical trauma on the skeleton, as well as a partially healed jaw bone fracture.

In his grave, the researchers found a red ocher-covered skull cap or calotte placed next to his right arm. Calotte was taken from an adolescent or young adult, was cut near a part of the skull known as the upper pointed arches or eyebrow bone and had "very bright edges".

Archaeologists have also discovered a sharp bone fragment and a snake-like phallic charmstone fragment in this tomb. Of the 480 people identified during the excavation, 15 were found to exhibit unusual burial practices regarding extra skulls and broken heads. Eight objects were mixed with an extra skull, and seven bodies were buried when the skull was missing.

In any case, the extra skull was discovered next to the head of the main tomb, with the exception of a person with an extra skull near the abdomen of the skeleton. None of the extra skulls had evidence of trauma, suggesting that three had red ocher, but were not severely removed.

While the Neolithic tombs are said to use red mustard pigments to symbolize ritual rebirths, it can be said that due to the color similarity in the blood and possibly the early graves of California used pigments similarly.

While 14 of the 15 people who received special burial treatment were adults at the time of death, the age of an individual is unknown.

For the most recent study, Dr Eerkens and his team paid particular attention to graves 107, 109 and 137, three of these burials.

Two of the body is buried with caloid or skull cap

Grave 109 is an adult woman over 35 years old at the time of her death. In his grave, the researchers found a skull next to his head, believed to have come from another 35-year-old. Grave 137 was found as an adult male over the age of 40 at the time of his death, in the same pit as the other four adults and with a highly polished calotte. This calotte was so robust that researchers even believed it could be used as a small bowl for liquids.

Researchers don't yet know how important the California skull is to this old group, but they were probably part of the religious burial rituals used with the red ocher. From these three tombs, researchers analyzed bone fragments and tooth samples to search for strontium isotopes. They then compared them with samples from 200 other skeletons on the site.

Researchers analyzed bone fragments and tooth samples and compared them with samples
It was taken from 200 other skeletons on the site. This isotope data,
Skeletons without an skull, as well as an extra 'fully overlapping' skull
embedding other people on the site

Strontium is used to determine where a person was born, where they live and can give clues about their diet. These isotope data revealed that skeletons without skulls, as well as those containing an extra skull, "fully overlap" with other people buried in the area. This means that they were all born and lived in a similar place, and the researchers were not identified as 'isotopically different'.

People with skulls traveled to the region during the war and if they were killed and buried there would be different isotope signatures. For example, if the 'trophy heads' had been taken during a raid on a remote village, this would also be the case. In addition, data from the teeth of four people buried with extra skulls also showed local signatures that showed that he was born and raised near the area.

All these analyzes have led researchers to reject the 'trophy head' theory and instead claim that the extra skulls are more consistent with the theory of “revenge of ancestors”. Veneration is to honor a person after he dies. It is based on the belief that the dead continue to live spiritually, and to bury the remains of the ancestors with those who recently died, that they can help them travel to the next world or bring wealth to the group as a whole.

When it comes to California skeletons, researchers believe that young children whose mother died but survived to adulthood could 'come together' with the remains of their relatives when they eventually died.

Eerkens and colleagues published their findings in the American Antiquity magazine.

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