Tuesday Jun 28, 201103:16 PM GMT
Ancient Brits used skull-cups
Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:44PM
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People used stone tools to make cups out of human skulls about 14,700 years ago in Britain.
A recent study has revealed that the ancient inhabitants of today's southwestern England used human skulls as drinking cups and containers.

Paleontologist Silvia Bello of London's Natural History Museum says people of the region cleaned the skulls and used them as containers during the Ice Age.

According to the study published in PLoS ONE, scientists based their findings on the results of studies conducted on a collection of bones found in Gough's Cave in Somerset, England.

The skull fragments belong to at least five people including a young child about 3 years old, two adolescents, an adult and an older adult.

Researchers say the bones are the oldest examples of drinking cups made out of human skulls, ScienceNews reported.

Carbon dating places the skulls places at about 14,700 years old when prehistoric cave dwellers shaped the upper parts of the brain cases into containers.

Studies suggest that they might have belonged to victims of cannibalism, who were scalped and scraped clean with stone tools shortly after death.

"Possibly the most surprising thing is how skilled at manipulating human bodies these early humans were," Bello said.

"It was a very meticulous process that just proves how technologically advanced this population was. It also demonstrates a very complex funerary behavior."

Scientists believe the skull-cups were used in some kind of ritual.

"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," said co-author of the study Chris Stringer adding that “a precise cast of the skull-cup from the adult individual will go on display at the Natural History Museum in London on March 1 for three months.”

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