Skulls in culture

Way back in 2004, I visited one of the most memorable museum exhibits I’ve ever come across. The California Academy of Sciences put on an exhibit of skulls and I caught it right before the institution closed down for renovations. It was excellent. It combined two things I love, bones and culture.

For those of you who missed the skulls exhibit at Cal Academy, they have a website on skulls in culture. The page is filled with images of skulls in popular art,

“Skulls do more than just protect the brain — they also stimulate the mind. Often symbols of mortality and power, they have been employed in human ceremony, ritual, and art for tens of thousands of years. From the ancient animal skulls in Paleolithic burial sites to the curlicued cattle skulls that float like spirits over Georgia O’Keefe’s canvas mountains, cultures around the world have turned to skulls to express ideas about both life and death.”

The exhibit was much more than a collection of popular art, mind you. They had a specimen of every taxa of skull. For an osteophile, it was heaven.

In other bone related news, if you study osteology, or have studied it… chances are the skeletal remains you had were of Indian descent. And not the Native American Indian, I’m speaking of skeletons from peoples from the Indian subcontinent in Asia. There’s a big skeleton industrial complex there, and some people just got arrested,

“Indian police discovered a human “bones factory” in an eastern state on Monday and arrested six people for illegally trading in skeletons, a senior officer said.

The arrested men told police the bones were sold to medical students and used in traditional medicine, district police chief Peeyush Pandey said.”

It is pretty remarkable and pitiful the depths that poverty will drive someone to desecrate death, especially in India.

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