Headless Skeletons Reveal Ancient Ritual

Headless Skeletons Reveal Ancient Ritual
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A skull rests in an ancient pot, crushed by the weight of time and topsoil, on the South Pacific island of Ifati.

The skull rests atop a cone shell ring, an ornament found throughout the site on present-day Vanuatu.

Burial rituals of the indigenous Lapita people were conducted over many months with graves being revisited perhaps several times to remove skulls and other selected bones according to Stuart Bedford.

The Lapita arrived in the islands off of modern-day Papua New Guinea around 1350 B.C., then spread east through the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Their journey is documented by pieces of their distinctive, highly decorated pottery.

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—Photograph courtesy Stuart Bedford/The National University of Australia
 
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