I read the article through twice with great interest. http://menic.utexas.edu/ghazal/ChapV/index.html
It’s a shame the photographic links at the end weren’t working as I would have loved to have actually seen these skulls but the photos that were there gave some idea of the obvious talent of the plasterer. Some people like to think of pre-historic man as being grunting bone-wielding ignorants who cannot possibly show any kind of sophistication. I suppose by our present day standards they can’t but when I look more into the past I realise that pre-historic man was sophisticated, skilful and showed great awareness both of himself and his surroundings. Personally, I am in awe of them.
The main questions I have concerning the Ain Ghazal skulls are these:
1. Why were the mandibles removed?
2. Why were the upper teeth removed or ground down to the bone?
3. Why indeed were the skulls removed from the bodies at all?
These are the same questions the archaeologists asked too, among others.
I think it is too simplistic to put the meaning of these skulls down to just ancestor worship as per Kenyon. It is true that our ancient ancestors did venerate their ancestors, just like we do today but there is something more about these skulls and the way they were treated and disposed of. I also think some of us in the Craft are sometimes too quick to put everything down to ancestor veneration.
Another meaning posited was that of a warrior cult but that would not explain the female/child skulls found. So I’m ruling this one out.
I think the main meanings that really stand out for me are apotropaic (protection against evil/harm) and the supernatural. I think this because there is historical and anthropological evidence for bones being used in this way in the ancient past (skulls and long bones especially). The ancients were superstitious and it makes sense to me that they would want to protect themselves as well as heal. After all, this is still what we do today isn’t it? We in the Craft still make potions, poppets and cast spells in order to protect ourselves, our loved ones and heal and we utilise the magick of the Otherworld to do so. We may not use human skulls but we still might utilise bones of other creatures (not by killing them but by gleaning their bones after the animal has died of natural causes). Voodoo practice still uses bones as such.
The skull has always seemed to me to have been of high importance. In many cultures it is where the soul resides. Even in the Bible there is mention of the ‘golden globe’. To be bereft of one’s skull meant that one could not enter the Afterlife. Therefore, skulls held a lot of magickal power.
Why would the people of Ain Ghazal remove the heads of their own for magick and protection rituals? Perhaps they didn’t. Maybe these skulls were skulls of enemies in which case it makes sense that they might remove their skulls in order for them not to be able to enter the Afterlife. But because of the skulls power they instead also utilised it for magickal purposes.
We will never know all the answers – all we can do is look at the evidence we have and surmise. However, to me it proves that our ancient ancestors were far more in tune with things than we give them credit for.