ANCIENT ORIGINS: Jericho (also called Tell es-Sultan ) is a city with an incredibly rich history located in the Palestinian West Bank, near the Jordan River, some 55 kilometers (34 mi) from Jerusalem. Besides being dubbed the oldest city in the world, and its inclusion in the Bible, it was also home to some very bizarre mortuary practices. In some cases, Strange Remains explains that the skulls of their dead were removed and covered with plaster in order to create very life-like faces, or death masks, complete with shells inset for eyes and paint to imitate hair and moustaches. The flesh and jawbones were removed from the skulls in order to model the plaster over the bone and the physical traits of the faces seem specific to individuals, suggesting that these decorated skulls were portraits of the deceased. The traditional interpretation for the mortuary practice is that the skulls offered a means of preserving and worshiping ancestors. Some experts maintain that there is a religious aspect to the practice reflecting a belief that life continues after death through the preservation of the individual characteristics of the deceased.
WATCH: The Skulls of Jericho!
Welcome to In Focus. In this series we take a closer look at particular sites, finds and objects from the world of Archaeology. Today we journey to the Middle East to the site of Jericho, where the Jericho skulls were discovered…
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