Yep. That’s a 19th century human skull, but ain’t it a purty one?


So, raise your hand if you want to see a 19th century Dayak-style engraved human skull. The skull itself is 19th century, unfortunately the carving is modern. I found that out after I bought it, I guess I should have asked first. I was a little too overwhelmed with the variety of skulls I was being presented with to think of intelligent questions to ask other than “Is this legal?” “Where did you get these?” “Why do you have a box filled with them?” and “What do you mean you have infant skulls in the other room?” The answer to these questions was along the lines of: “Yes! There is no law against owning human body parts.”(Except in two states, I think one of them was Maryland.), “Lots of places!”(try googling ‘human skulls for sale’ and see what I mean), “Why not?” and “Wanna see ’em?”. Now, I’m not at all the squeamish sort, but I didn’t even want to see the infant skulls. In retrospect, I feel like kind of a wuss because I let it bother me. It’s just a piece of bone now.

It is a little disturbing though. Right after I got it home, I started regretting buying it. It’s not so much that it freaks me out, it’s that it’s likely to require “the explanation” whenever someone sees it. A lot of stuff might require explanations, but human skulls are kind of in a different category in most peoples minds. I can’t say I can honestly exclude myself there, either. It does feel a little bit wrong somehow. I’m not one for religion, or any of that nonsense, and frankly, when I die, they can do whatever the fuck they want with my corpse, I’ll be dead. I’ll be pretty apathetic about things in general. That being said, I know other people feel otherwise, perhaps this guy included. If there’s a wrong here, it’s that someone probably disrespected this guy by graverobbing his corpse somewhere in China, and then shipped it off to some willing customer. In this case, the willing customer may have been an artist. Other times it’s for science. It’s still kinda fucked up to do the shit they do. I have no idea what happened in this particular case, I just know that graverobbing crap does go on, and it’s conceivable that this was originally obtained through such means.

It turns out the guy I got this from is *quite* the bone collector. He had a wall filled with nothing but animal skulls. It reminded me of a wall I saw at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco (I think?), only not quite THAT vast. There were seals, sharks, dolphin, lion, tiger, bear(oh my!), giant mekong river catfish, emu, human, walrus, elephant, rhino, mastodon (that one was a replica), and a crapload more that I either can’t think of right now, just didn’t notice specifically, or was common enough to not be worth mentioning, like a rat, or a domestic cat. There was a wall, and they were all different. More than 100 of them. Then, there were the boxes in the garages, filled with god knows how many others. A lotta elk/cat/dog. The guy had a motherfucking Narwhal, ’nuff said.

He made these really neat lookin’ shaman walking sticks with pitbull skulls on top. I know it sounds all Michael Vick, but he doesn’t kill the dogs, he just recycles already dead ones for spare parts. He had a whole pile of refrigerators out back with the heads of various animals, in various states of decomposition, representing a fair cross-section of the animal kingdom. You could totally hear the beetles chittering away, consuming the flesh. It sounds *exactly* like you would imagine. The guy told me when he had an elephant to “deflesh”, the beetles were so loud, you could hear them 100 feet away in the house. I’ve got a post I could make here about that Elephant too, mebbe I’ll get around to that someday. Anyway, if you’re not creeped out by now, I guess it’s safe to drop the picture. I think the squeamish have had plenty of warning/preparatory gross-out work by now.

19th century human skull with scorpion engraving

19th century human skull with scorpion engraving

The scorpion carving on the top is quite beautiful, actually. The ‘tail’ continues down the back of the skull all the way to the base. The lower jaw is missing, I”m not sure if it was lost prior to, or after being engraved. There’s a rather large crack on the top of the skull, in the body of the “scorpion”. I’m not sure if that was a result of an injury during this person’s lifetime, which subsequently healed, or if it was done accidentally by the artist, and then filled in. It looks to me more like it was an injury that healed, but that’s really just a shot in the dark. One of the many things I am not, is a forensic pathologist.

Somewhat more obvious to a layperson such as m’self is that this person probably died pretty old. It looks like they had been gumming their food for quite a few years. The whole upper jaw where the teeth would be is worn down. You can’t even see most of the sockets anymore, it’s just smooth(ish) bone.

Here’s a top view, that better shows the bulk of the artwork.

19th century engraved human skull, dayak style

19th century engraved human skull, dayak style

And, since a picture is worth 1000 words:

Allosaurus Fragilis skull with a human skull for comparison/dinner

Allosaurus Fragilis skull with a human skull for comparison/dinner

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13 thoughts on “Yep. That’s a 19th century human skull, but ain’t it a purty one?

  1. Can you give me that guy you bought it froms contact info or give mine to him? I love the skull and am looking for one like it. Maybe more if the price is right. Let me know and I’ll give you my e-mail or something. I’m serious too! Thanks in advance.

    • Not really, I generally don’t sell my collectibles. I’m happy to consider trades from time to time, but I buy this stuff to collect it, not to resell it.

  2. I happen to collect skulls. This particular one is definitely a newer skull and is not Dayak but is beautiful all the same. If you are interested in parting with it feel free to contact me. I would also love contact info from the person you picked it up from

    • Yeah, it’s more dayak-style than actual dayak. I’d love to get my hands on some real dayak stuff someday, but for now this’ll have to do.

      I’m not too interested in parting with it, I’d be open to trades for other interesting stuff, but it just looks so purty next to my (replica) fossil hominid skulls.

      It’s freakin’ neat to have this series of skulls sitting in front of you, as you stare the obvious truth of “Evolution” straight in the face. The artistic nature of the modern human skull in contrast with the fossil hominids really helps drive home the significance of what it means to be “human”.

    • I suspect the jaw was lost before it was engraved, but I have no way to know now. The carving itself is pretty modern, within the last 20 years or so, by a local artist. The guy I got this from didn’t remember the artists name though, so I dunno how to track him down.

      The skull itself is 19th century, so it’s not exactly ancient either, but the carving is definitely late 20th century.

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