In Çatalhöyük, a neolithic site in ancient Anatolia (present day Turkey) discoveries were made of headless skeletons buried under house floors. Griffon vulture symbols were also found throughout the settlement and archaeologists believe they have now solved the mystery
Çatalhöyük is known as one of the world's earliest cities and was settled abound 7500 B.C.
The population numbered around 10,000 and they lived in densely-packed, mudbrick houses with openings in the roofs that served as windows and doors. These areas also served as the streets. The interior of their dwelling were coated with plaster and decorated with paintings and relief sculpture.
Skeletons of men, women and children, on their sides in tightly flexed, fetal-like positions have been found under the central rooms of the family houses. In ancient Anatolia this was normal, however archaeologists have found 14 headless bodies. One of them had cut marks which indicates that the corpse had been defleshed by humans. Researchers are now proposing that vultures depicted throughout the settlement were to deflesh the corpses prior to burial.
Griffon type (Gyps fulvus) is a common vulture that inhabits Turkey. Forensic studies find that these birds leave little if any marks when defleshing a body making it extremely difficult to find evidence on the Neolithic remains found.
Whether the bodies were defleshed by human hands, animals or exposure to the elements, all these methods would leave some type of evidence, however none of these can be found on the skeletons.
Despite this lack of evidence, the archaeologists believe that using vultures to excarnate the corpses would have reduced the odor of decay but left the tendons in place so that they could be folded and bound in the fetal positions before being placed under the floors.
Another clue are wall paintings at Çatalhöyük which depict vultures attacking headless bodies and there are skulls of griffon vultures embedded in some of the plaster walls.
Source - Forbes
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