Eachtra Journal

ISSN 2009-2237

Musings on skull-cups and face-cups - the case for cannibalism

February, 2011 · Written by: John Tierney Print This Page This entry is part 5 of 8 in the Issue 09

When people ask us ‘did ye find anything wonderful’ on an excavation and their eyes glaze over when we talk about house foundations and inter-connected pits in burnt mounds we can always revert to the Mitchelstown face cup. Found by Matt Meade and excavated by Bruce Sutton on the Mitchelstown ring road the face cup has been an intriguing piece to work with and we are still wondering as to it’s significance. An idea being mooted for the last few years is that it could have been related to cannibalism.

This hypothesis comes to mind today with the story circulating about skull-cups in the Cheddar caves in Bristol. In their online paper the authors, Bello, Parfitt and Stringer, present evidence that cut marks and percussion features on skulls indicate deliberate defleshing.

Bello SM, Parfitt SA, Stringer CB (2011) Earliest Directly-Dated Human Skull-Cups. PLoS ONE 6(2): e17026. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017026

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