Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ancient human burial site shows evidence of mass cannibalism: 'Slaves were skinned and butchered like animals'

Evidence of mass cannibalism, in which men, women and children were on the menu, has been unearthed in Germany.

The 'intentionally mutilated' remains of up to 500 people were found in 7,000-year-old pits near the village of Herxheim in the south-west of the country.

Marks on the bones show that the bodies were skinned and the flesh removed using techniques normally used to butcher animals.

Some of the bones may have been smashed to allow the living to suck the marrow out of the dead, others were chewed and one researcher even believes the victims could have been 'spit-roasted'.

So far, the remains of 10 people - eight adults and two children aged around 6 and 16 - have been analysed.

But with around 500 bodies already dug up and many more waiting to be recovered, the journal Antiquity reports that the true figure could be much higher.

Archaeologist Bruno Boulestin said: 'We see patterns on the bones of animals indicating they have been spit-roasted.

'We have seen some of these patterns on the human bones.

'It is highly probable that a great number of the thousand or so individuals deposited in Herxheim were subjected to cannibalism.'

Dr Boulestin, of Bordeaux University in France, suspects the deaths - and feasts - took place over just a few decades.

It is thought that the remains belong either to people eaten in victory celebrations after being killed in wars, or to people slaughtered and consumed in ritual sacrifices.

It is also possible that the cannibalism was carried out when the early farming society suffered famine.

Further evidence of Neolithic cannibalism comes from 6,000-year-old bones unearthed in a French cave and analysed in the 1980s.

But other experts say the dead of both locations may simply have been given ritual burials, in which the flesh was removed as part of the ceremony.
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