Clues to an Iron Age massacre lie in what the assailants left behind | Science News

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Clues to an Iron Age massacre lie in what the assailants left behind

No defensive wounds, valuables untouched, livestock left to starve point to a power struggle

7:00am, April 25, 2018
Sandby borg

SUDDEN DEATH  Excavations at Sandby borg, an ancient ringfort on an island off Sweden’s southeastern coast, have uncovered evidence of a possible surprise attack and massacre of the site’s inhabitants around 1,500 years ago.

Club-wielding assailants struck the Scandinavian settlement with devastating violence, slaughtering at least 26 people and leaving the bodies where they fell. There, the bodies lay for 1,500 years until recovered recently by archaeologists analyzing clues about the Iron Age massacre.

It’s unclear why the seaside ringfort of Sandby borg, on the Baltic Sea island of Ӧland, was targeted at a time of political turmoil following the Roman Empire’s fall in Western Europe. Adults, teenagers and children died suddenly and brutally — their skeletons showing bones fractured by clubs, but no defensive wounds, say archaeologist Clara Alfsdotter of Bohuslӓns Museum in Udevalla, Sweden, and her colleagues. When the slaughter was over, the attackers left the sheep and other animals to starve and the valuables untouched, the scientists report in the April Antiquity. No one came back to bury the dead.

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