Police yesterday confirmed that 121 skulls found in the western part of northwest China's Gansu Province were human and had been removed from the bodies after death.
The skulls, wrapped in plastic, were found on March 26 in a ravine by a herdsman in an outlying mountain area of the Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County, a source with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) said.
A photo published on the sohu.com web portal showed rows of skulls with the tops removed. On some of them skin and hair were still attached.
Local police first thought the skulls were those of monkeys after an initial analysis of fur and hair.
But forensic experts from Lanzhou University, in the provincial capital, confirmed they were human. They examined 13 samples.
On April 2 MPS sent a team of forensic scientists, DNA specialists and anthropologists to Gansu to investigate the find.
The skulls were identified as being from people of both sexes and of all ages, said Professor Chen Shixian, a forensic expert. He dismissed rumors that the skulls were dumped by hospitals after doctors had removed the brains for medical purposes.
Investigations showed no signs of medical expertise being involved, said Chen. He added that no signs of any fatal injuries had been discovered. He declined to comment any further on the investigation.
Police said they were still probing the origins of the skulls and where and how the decapitations had taken place.
(Xinhua News Agency April 6, 2006)