For the first time in the world, the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums in Mannheim present the exhibition “Skull Cult”, which focuses on a subject that spans many cultures and times. From autumn 2011, the importance of head and skull in the cultural history of man is seen through more than 300 exhibits. Whether millennia-old cups, artfully embellished headhunter trophies or religiously- revered skull relics, as a monument to transience or as an archaeological sensation: the phenomenon “Skull Cult” looks back on a long cultural history. Numerous lenders from Europe and abroad have already pledged significant objects for display in this exhibition.
An opportunity to create the “Skull Cult” exhibition project was possible through the 2008 rediscovery of the impressive skull collection held by artist and Darwinist Gabriel von Max (1840-1915). It was one of the biggest collections of its kind and included objects from the Americas, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Europe. In 1917, the collection passed into the possession of the now Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums through a purchase by the City of Mannheim. Large sections of the roughly 500 objects in the collection went to the University of Freiburg, within the bounds of an exchange. After the war, they were regarded as missing. Only two years ago, the collection was rediscovered in another skull collection in Freiburg.