Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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War Trophy or Honored Ancestor?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

(Rdikeman)CHILLICOTHE, OHIO—Anthropologists from the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Cambridge analyzed 112 human skulls from Borneo that were known to have been collected by headhunters and published their findings in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. They found that 60 percent of the skulls showed signs of violence. But some of the bones only showed signs of cut marks, which would have made it difficult to know if the cut marks had been made during an act of violence or as part of a mortuary custom such as dismemberment and cleaning of the bones. Bradley Lepper, curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society, applied this information to skulls uncovered in Ohio in his column for The Columbus Dispatch. He thinks that the separate human skulls sometimes found in Hopewell mounds burials are the remains of honored ancestors.