Archeologists from the University of Strasbourg in France report unearthing a pit filled with the severed remains of human limbs, including hands, feet, arms and fingers in a nearly 6,000-year old pit near the village of Bergheim (not far from the German border).
According to the report published in the December 2015 issue of the journal Antiquity the pit was discovered serendipitously in 2012 while an archaeological surveying company was overseeing excavations in advance of property development in Bergheim. What they found was a 5-acre area pockmarked with 60 ancient pits called silos. All told, 14 of the silos contained human bones.
“The discovery in Bergheim is the witness of a very violent event, which took place at a specific time,” stated Fanny Chenal, co-author of the study, who added that although they have no way of knowing was led to the violent act, Neolithic wars were not uncommon, and it is hoped that the find will give scientists a better understanding of daily life at that time in history.
One pit, approximately 5 feet wide by 6-1/2 feet deep (dubbed silo 157) was almost completely filled with bones, with the oldest deposit revealing at least 7 dismembered upper limbs, including some from a child 12-16-years old, as well as the bodies of a middle-aged man who apparently had received several blows to the head before his arm was cut-off, in addition to another adult and 4 children including an infant under the age of 1. The remains were dumped there approximately 5,335-years ago.
“All the bones showed amputation or cut marks made with wither an ax or knife,” added Chenal.
She also noted that someone had placed the body of a woman into the bone pit around 5,245 years ago, although unlike the others her body didn’t show any signs of violence or trauma. In the meantime, other surrounding pits, contained bodies with little sign of violence, leaving the scientists to guess what had led to the burials, and whether the evidence in silo 157 was an isolated incident or regular acts of extreme violence.
“While in the past, archaeologists painted a picture of Neolithic life as idyllic and egalitarian, newer finds paint a far darker picture,” Chenal told Live Science.