6,000-year-old skeletons in French pit came from victims of violence | Science News

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6,000-year-old skeletons in French pit came from victims of violence

Discovery of severed arms, cracked skull adds to debate over Neolithic circular pits

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12:50pm, December 10, 2015
death pit

CIRCLE OF DEATH  A circular pit excavated in France (left) contains the remains of eight people probably killed in a violent attack around 6,000 years ago. Seven severed left arms lay at the bottom of the pit. A diagram of the pit discoveries denotes bones of each individual in different colors.

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.

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