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In Images: An Ancient Wand Etched with Faces

Face wand

face wand found in syrian site

(Image credit: Ibanez et al, Antiquity, 2014)

A 9,000-year-old wand with a face carved into it was discovered in Syria.

Ancient site

tell qarassa in syria, excavations

(Image credit: Ibanez et al)

The wand was found at Tell Qarassa, an excavation site of an early farming settlement in what is now southern Syria.

Excavating the site

tell qarassa excavations

(Image credit: Ibanez et al)

The site was occupied more than 9,000 years ago and contains the remnants of walls from human settlement, as well as human burials.

Ancient culture

tell qarassa in syria

(Image credit: Ibanez et al)

The people who lived at the site were some of history's earliest farmers.

Unearthing the past

tell qarassa in syria

(Image credit: Ibanez, et al)

Here, excavations continue at the site

Ancient burials

excavations in Tell Qarassa, Syria

(Image credit: Ibanez et al)

The wand was found near skeletons.

Missing heads

tell qarassa excavations

(Image credit: Ibanez et al)

For some mysterious reason, the skeletons had had their skulls dug up and placed elsewhere at the site.

Revealing the body

tell qarassa excavations

(Image credit: Ibanez et al)

Here, a skeleton is unearthed.

Mysterious practice

excavation at tell qarassa

(Image credit: Ibanez et al)

It's not clear why the heads were removed and placed elsewhere, though either ancestor worship or the trophy-display of enemy heads are possibilities.

Tia Ghose
Tia Ghose

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.