Discovery of severed arms, cracked skull adds to debate over Neolithic circular pits
F. Chenal et al/Antiquity 2015, © Bertrand Perrin/Antea (photo)
A gruesome discovery in eastern France casts new light on violent conflicts that took lives — and sometimes just limbs — around 6,000 years ago.
Excavations of a 2-meter-deep circular pit in Bergheim revealed seven human skeletons plus a skull section from an infant strewn atop the remains of seven human arms, say anthropologist Fanny Chenal of Antea Archéologie in Habsheim, France, and her colleagues.
Two men, one woman and four children were killed, probably in a raid or other violent encounter, the researchers report in the December Antiquity. Their bodies were piled in a pit that already contained a collection of left arms hacked off by axes or other sharp implements. Scattered hand bones at the bottom of the pit suggest that hands from the severed limbs had been deliberately cut into pieces.