Skull Caves

As our intrepid group of adventurers trudged up a jungle path in sweltering tropical heat and humidity yesterday, I remarked to fellow traveller Julian that I find myself in unusual situations so often that it’s become a normal part of life. In this instance, the “unusual situation” was a visit to a cave filled with human skulls.

Back in the day, when tribal/ village rivalries in this region were settled primarily through direct confrontation, chopping off heads of the vanquished was apparently the social norm. In many places, such battle trophies were thrown into caves like the one pictured here for safekeeping.

One of two skull caves at Hiliwau in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
One of two skull caves at Hiliwau in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea

I’m not sure if anyone knows how old the skulls are, but judging from the fact that the interminably slow drip of ground water seeping through the cave’s ceiling have formed mineral deposits encasing some of the bone fragments...they’ve been there quite a long time, probably hundreds or perhaps thousands of years.

Though it’s chilling in a way to see a place like this, the experience also offered an insight into human nature, as well as an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve advanced...or not.

That’s Captain Craig in the background, with an appropriately contemplative expression on his face, doing his wannabe-Indiana-Jones thing.