Mass grave with jumble of cracked skulls, fractured leg bones fuels debate over demise of early farmers
C. Meyer et al/PNAS 2015
Central Europe’s first farmers cultivated not just crops but also massacres, with some villages nearly wiping out neighboring settlements, researchers say.
Evidence of this ancient warfare appears on human bones found scattered in a ditch exposed by German road workers in 2006, says a team led by anthropologist Christian Meyer of the University of Mainz, Germany. These bones represent at least 26 people who were beaten to death and possibly shot with arrows before being dumped in the ditch, the researchers report August 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The mass grave lies near remnants of an ancient farming site called Schöneck-Kilianstädten.
A majority of recovered skull pieces display cracks and depressions probably caused by blows from stone tools attached to handles. Two bone arrowheads also lay among the remains. Fractures on many lower leg bones