Bone or Flesh: Defleshing and Post-Depositional Treatments at Kortik Tepe (Southeastern Anatolia, PPNA Period)

Erdal Y. S.

EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY, vol.18, no.1, pp.4-32, 2015 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 18 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Doi Number: 10.1179/1461957114y.0000000072
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.4-32
  • Keywords: decomposition, defleshing, scalping, Neolithic, burial customs, pigment, painting, plaster, Near East, Anatolia, WEST-CENTRAL ILLINOIS, POTTERY NEOLITHIC B, MORTUARY PRACTICES, AGE ESTIMATION, PHASE-ANALYSIS, SKELETAL AGE, CANNIBALISM, WARFARE, DEATH, SOUTHWEST
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Cutmarks on the bones of ten individuals from Kortik Tepe, a Pre-Pottery Neolithic site in Southeastern Anatolia, were analysed using a bioarchaeological approach. Half of the ten individuals possess cutmarks on their crania only while the other five have cutmarks on both their cranial and postcranial bones. Diagnoses of these cutmarks suggest they were made on fresh cadavers, while skeletal data and burial customs reveal that the individuals with cutmarks were subject to human intervention in the decomposition process, understood as post-burial practices rather than secondary burials. This conclusion is supported by the application of plaster and paint as part of the burial customs. The process of defleshing is interpreted as an attempt to purify the corpse and to separate death from life.