The Jericho Skull – Face of 9,500-Year-Old Man Revealed for the First Time

The Jericho Skull is one of seven plastered and ornamented Neolithic skulls excavated by archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon in 1953 at the site of Tell es-Sultan, near the modern West Bank city of Jericho.

All seven skulls had been originally stuffed with soil to support delicate facial bones before wet plaster was applied to create individualized facial features, such as ears, cheeks and noses. Small marine shells represented eyes, and some skulls bore traces of paint.

While researchers generally agree that the objects represent an early form of ancestor worship, very little is known about who was chosen to be immortalized in plaster thousands of years ago, and why.

The Jericho Skull is considered the oldest portrait in the The British Museum collection, and, until recently, its most enigmatic: a truncated human skull covered in worn plaster, with eye sockets set with simple sea shells that stare out blindly from its display case.

Now, thanks to digital imaging, 3D printing, and forensic reconstruction techniques, specialists have reversed-engineered the ancient plaster-stuffing ritual and recreated the face of the individual inside the Jericho Skull — and it turns out to belong to a 40-something man with a broken nose.

This interactive 3D model of the Jericho Skull was created from thousands of micro-CT scans. Click on the annotations to learn more about the features of this ancient ritual artifact. © The Trustees of the British Museum.


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