Sunday, February 20, 2011

Brain food: the history of skull drinking

The Cheddar cave dwellers who used skulls as drinking cups were in good company – many have gone much further

It is now more than 15 years since I paid a visit to the sleepy town of Sedlec, just outside Prague. But I can still vividly recall the strangeness of leaving the sunlit graveyard to descend into a church where huge bell shapes had been formed from human skulls and bones, along with a skeletal coat of arms and a chandelier fashioned from every bone in the human body. The skeletons had been disinterred because the site was so popular as a burial place, having been supposedly sprinkled with earth from Golgotha in about 1278. The Kostnice ossuary is a striking example of how the sacred can legitimise seemingly macabre or taboo uses of the body.

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