It’s hard to say how long The Metal has been around. This is because The Metal does not care for the laws of linear time. What we do know is that for thousands of years, humanity has both feared and revered The Metal, as evidenced once again by the recent discovery of an ancient skull cult.
According to a new paper published today in Science Advances, German researchers digging in the Neolithic archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe in southeast Turkey have found skull fragments that were clearly carved into by humans. The team believes that the grooves in the fragments were too deep to be caused by animals or some other natural cause, and suggests that instead, these skulls were probably used for some sort of ritual.
Archaeologist Julia Gresky explained that at the site, she and her colleagues discovered “megalithic ritual architecture with characteristic T-shaped pillars.” After utilizing microscropes to further analyze artifacts from Göbekli Tepe, Gresky and her team confirmed the incisions on fragments belonging to three skulls were in fact made with some sort of human-engineered tool.
“Although human burials are still absent from the site, a number of fragmented human bones have been recovered from fill deposits of buildings and from adjacent areas,” Gresky told Gizmodo. “Modified skull fragments from Göbekli Tepe could indicate a new, previously undocumented variation of skull cult in the Early Neolithic of Anatolia and the Levant.”
Humans have always had a morbid infatuation with the macabre, which has taken many forms over the years. “Death cults,” for example, cropped up on the islands of Malta during prehistoric times, likely because of environmental turmoil in the region. The notion of a “skull cult” helps us understand humanity’s long and complicated relationship with mortality.
In the Near East, the Neolithic Period—AKA the “New Stone Age”—began around 9,000 years ago, when people in the region started developing agriculture. As the period’s name suggests, people were using stone tools around this time. Apparently, some of them were using said tools to draw sick ass designs in some skulls.
“We don’t know how it was performed, but we can guess that the skulls were used for rituals, maybe in the context of ancestor veneration or enemy trophy taking,” Gresky explained.
Hopefully, future digs will illuminate what kinds of activities ancient skull cults were engaging in. Clearly, though, this discovery proves what we’ve known since at least 2006: you can’t kill The Metal. The Metal will live on.