Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2017

Major Department or Program



Gary Rollefson


This thesis examines the unique mortuary practice of plastering skulls in the early farming communities of the Prehistoric Near East and the interpretations that have arisen to explain it. Over 73 skulls have been found throughout the Levant and they are confined both spatially and temporally to the Levant from the Middle to Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (8,600-7,500 cal BC). They have given rise to a multitude of interpretations, including ancestor veneration, “skull cult,” apotropaic objects, and many more. To understand the motivations behind plastering skulls I critique the previous work interpreting the ideological and ritualistic reasons behind them and give a comprehensive overview of the relevant geographical, economical, and archaeological and theoretical work that has been done on the sites where plastered skulls have been found.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Skull -- Reconstruction, Archaeology -- Plastered human skulls, Prehistoric peoples -- Societies, Middle East -- Levant -- Cyprus -- Egypt -- Iraq -- Israel -- Jordan -- Lebanon -- Palestine -- Syria -- Turkey, Neolithic period -- Society, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2017 -- Anthropology Department

Permanent URL

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Included in

Anthropology Commons



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