After studying the remains of more than 100 skulls, new research has indicated Iron Age Celts used special oils with which to preserve the heads of their unfortunate victims.
According to the Inquisitr, many of the unearthed 2,000-year-old heads would have once been tied onto the horses of ancient Celts, and then paraded down streets in wild victory parades. While it has been suggested that the Celts embalmed these heads in order to preserve them, a new study has now confirmed this, as reported by the Daily Mail.
While old writings have often spoken about savage Celtic beheadings, up until fairly recently, scientists weren't quite sure how the heads had been preserved well enough to have been kept as trophies. However, new research conducted on 100 skulls has revealed that plant oils were doused on the heads of victims right after they had been chopped off, in order to keep them fresh and prevent rotting from taking place.
Embalming and preserving these heads would have been deeply important to Iron Age Celts, as new research attests that their culture valued the immense "bravery and strength of the community and of its warriors."
As the new research also noted, "Ancient texts described that one of the most impressive ritual practices of the Celts during the Iron Age was to remove the heads of enemies killed in battle and to embalm them for display in front of the victors dwellings."The skulls that had been left behind after the Celtic beheadings were discovered in the walled Rhone River town of Le Cailar, France and were found to date back to the third century BC. Along with the skulls, archaeologists also found a treasure trove of ancient weapons stashed here, and it has been suggested that the recovered heads were most likely displayed for a long time, at least until around 200 BC.
"Many of the skulls bore cut marks, not only of decapitation, but also to preparing the heads for display by the removal of cervical vertebrae and aperture of the postero-inferior portion of the cranium, probably - to remove the brain; and tongue ablation, or at least the scraping of the muscles under the mandible," the scientists detailed in their new study.
To determine how the heads had been so well-preserved, scientists carefully crushed very tiny amounts of some of the skulls and determined that the heads were most likely doused in either cedar oil, or a local pinacea oil.
As it turns out, researchers also believe that Iron Age Celts may have applied these oils multiple times to keep the heads fresh even after they had already been embalmed. This would have been helpful if the heads were displayed for long stretches of time.
The new study, which demonstrates that oils were used by Iron Age Celts to embalm and preserve the heads of their victims, has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.