"Skulls in the Cemeteries" Top 5 Page for this destination East Timor Local Custom Tip by DSwede

East Timor Local Customs: 9 reviews and 7 photos

  Skulls in the Cemeteries
by DSwede

East Timor is heavily Catholic (~97%), which makes it one of two predominately Catholic countries in Asia (the other being the Philippines). So there is no shortage of Catholic cemeteries and crucifixes on their graves.

However, East Timor is also heavily animist. These tendencies predate the Portuguese colonization and religious missionary conversions. Therefore you will often have a mixture of animist and Christian symbols.

With that being said, I never heard a definitive reason why many of the remote and rural burial graves had skulls and horns decorating the crosses above them.

It may be an animist symbol, but I think it is a reflection of wealth of the family or clan. This is more in line with neighboring cultures of other Indonesian islands.

To find these, simply get out of the cities. The skulls will be more common in small villages and rural areas.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Sep 22, 2011
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