Decorated skull

UnknownPre-Pottery Neolithic B, 9,000 years ago

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Jerusalem, Israel

Some early agricultural communities practiced the custom of separating the skulls from the skeleton before burial and decorating them. They were found in separate burials below house floors, probably reflecting a form of ancestor worship that may have reinforced the sense of land ownership during a period that witnessed a shift to sedentary villages. Another type of skull, such as this unique to the Nahal Hemar Cave, near an asphalt source, has a coating of asphalt on its back. This layer is decorated with rolled cords of asphalt arranged in a netlike pattern resembling hair or a woven headdress. These skulls may also be indicative of ancestor worship. The absence of facial features suggests that the masks found at this same site were meant to be attached to the skulls. If so, then the Nahal Hemar skulls may express a different cult practice than that of the plastered skulls.


  • Title: Decorated skull
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, 9,000 years ago
  • Location: Nahal Hemar cave
  • Type: Skull
  • Rights: Israel Antiquities Authority
  • External Link: Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Exhibition: In the Beginning
  • Dimensions: H: 18.5 cm; W: 16.5 cm
  • Curator: Hershman, Debby

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps