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Burial pit discovered in France speaks of violence that is uncharacteristic of Neolithic society

Ian Harvey

A 5,500-6,000-year-old pit has been unearthed in Bergheim, France, a village near to the German border.

The pit was discovered by chance in 2012 by an archaeological surveying company doing work on excavations on a property development in Bergheim.  The area of 5 acres was covered in ancient pits called silos.  Out of the 60 silos discovered, 14 of them contain human bones.

One of the silos contains the gruesome remains of what is thought to be a family.  Under the skeletal remains are seven severed left upper limbs, including some without hands or fingers.  One of these is thought to be from a 12 to 16-year-old child.  All the limbs show the marks of a knife or axe.

Some of the bones have been chopped up further, and it is unknown if torture was involved.  On top of the limbs lay two adults and four children.  The last remains are of a middle-aged man who is missing an arm.  It is thought he died due to head injuries as his skull clearly shows damage.  Long after the layers of bones had settled, another body was laid in the silo, a woman who shows no signs of violence on her remains at all.

This pit differs from those around it, as those have remains that show little or no signs of violence.  The damage on some of the remains in the other pits can be attributed to everyday life, as farm life has always been hard and accidents do happen.

Such circular pits having been used for burial is a common occurrence across Western Europe.  But the finding of the pit with the brutalized remains has caused puzzlement among scientists, as it confuses the effort of working out what Neolithic daily life was actually like, Mail Online reported.

There are two theories as to why this pit is different.  The first is that there could have been a judicial sentence on these people.  The second is that there had been a war.  Neolithic communities were not known for their violence, which is why the find is so surprising.

Read another story from us: Ancient Peruvian Burial Site Reveals Child Sacrifice

They are thought of as farmers.  It is more commonly thought that the remains are from a war.  There is clear evidence of violence by Neolithic people in Germany in wars and general fighting amongst communities, but nothing has been found in France before.  However, this pit is unique in its level of violence, and it is unknown whether this was an isolated incident or indicative of something that was wider spread than scientists have so far discovered.