University of Oulu

Silver, M., Denker, A., and Nùñez, M.: MODERN VISUALIZATION BY DIGITALLY MODELING NEOLITHIC CRAFTED HUMAN SKULLS, ISPRS Ann. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci., X-M-1-2023, 245–252,, 2023

Modern visualization by digitally modeling Neolithic crafted human skulls

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Author: Silver, Minna1; Denker, Ahmet2,3; Nùñez, Milton4
Organizations: 1Universities of Oulu and Helsinki, Finland
2Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey
3University of South Florida, USA
4University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Copernicus Publications, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-12


Our digital modeling in 3D aims to visualize Neolithic crafted skulls found in the Near East for their preservation and study taking into account both the possibilities of skull deformation in vivo as well as crafting them postmortem. Decapitation and burying or caching human skulls is met already in Palaeolithic contexts. Postmortem cranial crafting by drilling and carving, or modelling with plaster and asphalt using human skulls as basis was practiced in the Near East during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic and Late Neolithic period. The first examples of plastered human skulls were discovered at Jericho in the 1950s, then belonging to Jordan, after which to Israel and now to the Palestinian territories. Similar skulls were later found in various sites in the Near East. The examples digitally reconstructed here include skulls from Göbekli Tepe and Köşk Höyük found in Turkey, from the cave at Nahal Hemar at the Dead Sea in the Judean mountains of Israel and skulls from Jericho in the Palestinian territories. Both drawings and photographs were used in digitally reconstructing the skulls in 3D. The Blender software allowed us to sculpt the complex shape of the skull from a base mesh. Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) rendering sped up rendering thanks to Nvidia graphics cards. UV mapping was carried out for importing the texture. The visualization enabled us to make further anthropological observations. Beside the generally acknowledged Neolithic ”skull cult” we also wish briefly to discuss other reasons for the phenomena and practices.

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Series: ISPRS annals of the photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences
ISSN: 2194-9042
ISSN-E: 2194-9050
ISSN-L: 2194-9042
Volume: 10
Issue: M-1-2023
Pages: 245 - 252
DOI: 10.5194/isprs-annals-X-M-1-2023-245-2023
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Copyright information: © Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.