Investigating nine deaths from 7,000 years ago
Movies about Jurassic dinosaurs are very popular these days, with picturesque critters from a couple of million years ago galumphing around. Hollywood doesn’t seem inclined to make a film such as “Neolithic Park,” which could be maybe a mere 7,000 years back.
In those old but more recent days, there would be no prehistoric monsters, but instead we would see the doings of prehistoric humans.
I wonder how ordinary people like you and me, except that they were ancient, got by in an era when they didn’t have to deal with excessively bigasauruses but had only the beginnings of modern necessities, such as crops and plows and animals and pottery and weapons?
What made me think about those late Neolithic days was a recent article about an ongoing study of some human bodies that were dug up during a construction project in Halberstadt, Germany, a few years ago. They were about 7,000 years old.
Scientists who study such things have seen lots of skeletons of people from that era, some who died natural deaths and some due to violence.
There are a few ancient mass graves here and there in Germany that are indications of warfare between agricultural communities.
But these nine persons were different. They were eight men and one woman. There were no children, said to be unusual in Neolithic mass graves. And each one had been killed by being hit with blunt force to the back of the head.
The archeological Sherlock Holmeses have been busy ever since, accumulating clues. After 7,000 years, it isn’t easy.
The victims were not local people but came from parts unknown and elsewhere. An analysis of isotopes in their bones and teeth indicated that their diets were different from those of local people buried in the area.
Burial customs in the area usually involved one person, neatly arranged, sometimes with items included. Unlike most graves in the area with multiple bodies, there were no children.
The bodies were dumped into the grave, not carefully arranged as were bodies of local people. Particularly strange was the methodical application of identical blows to each head.
The settlement where the grave was found was the first area in central Europe where the Neolith citizens raised crops and animals.
The scientists haven’t learned whodunnit, but the presumed execution was something new in what one called prehistoric “interpersonal violence.”
Now, I am not an archeologist, as you probably suspected. But I looked at a photo online of what’s left of the nine victims of this mysterious event, and as you might expect after 7,000 years, there isn’t much left. You’ve got some armbones and some leg bones and some ribs and lots of other skeletal parts and attachments, but it’s pretty messy.
Photos of a few of the skulls show real damage where the deceased were bopped on the noggin.
I have two theories about the case of the nine bodies in Halberstadt. One is that Hollywood will not likely stop making those films about roaring dinosaurs from the Jurassic age, in favor of films about 7,000 year old humans who got slugged.
The other is that we still have people today who, when they encounter nine people different from them, would feel it necessary to wallop them on the head.