Mystery of Unique 2,100-Year-Old Human Clay Head, Has a Ram’s Head Inside

A life-size Siberian clay head has revealed a ram’s skull inside a human-shaped shell! The head within a head was discovered in the late twentieth century, but its real nature can only now be revealed owing to contemporary technology.

The death mask was discovered in 1968 in the Shestakovsky burial mound by the Tagar culture, who occupied the region’s south between the 8th and 2nd century BC. This location is currently known as the Republic of Khakassia.

Prof Anatoly Martynov, an archaeologist, claimed responsibility for the discovery, which was “hidden in a layer of red dead-burned clay,” according to a 2010 article in Science First Hand. Inside, X-rays revealed a “small hollow chamber” with one strange-looking skull. Getting into the cranium was out of the question because the thing had deteriorated over time.

Fluoroscopy of Tagar clay head with the sheep skull visible inside

The odd image has taken decades to finish. Even at the last minute, experts expected to find a human skull within. Recent studies employing fluoroscopy, in which x-rays capture interior pictures in real time, revealed that the remains were indeed those of a ram.

Prof Natalya Polosmak of Novosibirsk’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and Dr. Konstantin Kuper of the Institute of Nuclear Physics was among those who examined the relic.

The 2,000-year-old clay mask is likely to have been made during the Tesinsk era, or later phases of Tagar civilization. They were superseded by the Tashtyk; curiously, last year, news surfaced of another such relic, in which an old face hidden behind a mask was eventually revealed via a CT scan.

In addition to wrapping body heads in clay, the Tagar are said to have burnt the deceased in pits. The Tagar figure, assumed to be a young guy, was “found among roughly 15 sets of burned human bones,” according to the website Archaeology.

It appears that the holes were excavated and built over. According to the Siberian Times, “a log home was created and coated with birch bark and textiles,” according to Dr. Elga Vadetsakaya’s study. This intricate covering construction was “partially burnt down, and the roof often collapsed.”

Tagar clay head

According to Dr. Vadetsakaya, a Tagar burial comprised two parts. The body was placed in a box and left to disintegrate for several years. The brain was then removed using the old surgical technique of trepanning. The skeleton was then covered in grass, leather, and bark to resemble its original owner.

That’s where the clay came in for Vadetsakaya. Was it critical that the head resemble the deceased person? Evidently not. In ceremonial terms, “neither likeness nor the face itself was of any interest,” according to Science First Hand.

All of this was done in preparation for funeral number two. Evidence reveals that remains were left with the deceased’s family for years before eventually meeting their creator.

So, where does the ram skull come into play? According to Dr. Vadetsakaya, the man’s brain may have died. The animal head might serve as a temporary substitute.

People who died during the period were believed to pass on to the next life. This is where Prof Polosmak’s ideas come in. She believes the ram-man took the place of someone whose body had gone missing. Perhaps the ram housed the person’s soul, allowing him to reach his afterlife destination.

There is much speculation about what the man-meets-animal mix implies. The significance of the ram in ancient civilizations is most likely at work here. Khnum, the Egyptian deity whose image might be that of a man with a ram’s head, is mentioned in Science First Hand. Khnum was notable for his use of clay in the creation of diverse living forms.

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