The skull is a bony structure found in the head of many animals. The skull supports the structures of the face and protects the head against injury. Protection of the brain is only one part of the function of a bony skull. For example, a fixed distance between the eyes is essential for stereoscopic vision, and a fixed position for the ears helps the brain to use auditory cues to judge direction and distance of sounds. In humans, the adult skull is normally made up of 22 bones.
Historically, the skull was a popular symbol of triumph over the enemy, and a warning to the people defeated in battle. Collections of skulls might be stacked by the victors in public places, as an obvious declaration of victory and grim reminder of the losses of the vanquished. It was also worn as a trophy and even drunk out of by conquering kings.
In Christian art and culture, the skull has been seen as a symbol of eternity, repentance, and human vanity and, therefore, a reminder to keep to the straight and narrow. An ancient symbol of the skull with a serpent crawling through the sockets was the symbol of knowledge and immortality. Many great Renaissance masterpieces prominently feature skulls, and most portraits of Saints, Cardinals, Popes and Royalty contained a skull as a reminder of the importance of living a virtuous life.
In Buddhism and Hinduism, skulls can be seen in their religious art. The Buddhist Lord of the Dead, Yama, has five skulls around his head, signifying the conquest of anger, greed, pride, envy and ignorance. Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death wears a necklace of skulls.
Skulls are represented in a number of tattoo design genres, and a classic tattoo design that has been popular for generations of tattoo enthusiasts. Skull tattoos represent death and the shortness of the life that precedes it.