Signs of Stone Age Cannibalism in Germany
Ancient Civilizations 3/30/09
By: Yona Williams
Germany has become a hot topic in the news because tens of thousands of ancient human remains have been found with identifying marks on bones that may suggest cannibalism in the region now known as Herxheim. In this article, you will learn more about this discovery.
An assortment of human bones dating back 7,000 years show cut marks that suggest that farmers during the early days of Germany resorted to cannibalistic practices. While it is impossible to concretely state that cannibalism existed during this time, the repetitive evidence suggests that some of the bodies found were actually eaten. Around the settlement, two lines of ditches were found that contained the bones in question.
Let's take the relics found in the German city of Speyer, (located in Rheinland-Palatinate), where skulls, shinbones, and vertebrae are kept for their unique indications. It seems that the bones all reveal signs of being cut, scraped or broken, which suggests that the owner met a fate that included cannibalism. When analyzing one of the skulls, the regional head of archaeology (Andrea Zeeb-Lanz) points out the grooves that run from the base of the nose to the back of the neck. The evidence shows that the flesh was torn off from the skull. Not every one can detect such actions, as the cutting edge of the flint stone leaves behind faint parallel incisions that a trained eye is meant to see.
The human remains of interest were located at a Stone Age site in Herxheim, Germany, where about 7,000 years ago, farmers lived on the land, tending to wheat and barley crops, as well as raising pigs, sheep, and cattle. When they settled in the area, they constructed a village that consisted of four to 12 houses, as seen in the post holes still visible in the ground.
A feature of the site that has piqued the interest of researchers is the two lines of ditches found dug around the settlement. It has been ruled out that the ditches served a defensive purpose, as they did not continue.
In the late 1990s, the first series of excavations took place, which revealed various injuries to the skeletons. It was believed at first that the victims had been massacred. However, in 2008, an anthropologist hailing from the Bordeaux University further examined the fragments that came from one of the ditches and pointed out that close to 2,000 samples belonged to fewer than 10 victims. He added that bones had been smashed, ribs removed, and the tops of skulls were opened to extract the brains. He also noticed that fewer bones contained marrow.
Bones found in surrounding ditches were examined, and it was revealed that the bones showed the same characteristics. It would seem that close to 1,000 people could have been literally butchered. Interestingly, there is no other mass grave of this size found in any other location. This rare find could also lead to possible facts concerning ritual cannibalism. Only time will tell.