The populations in central Europe between 5600 and 4900 BC are known today for what is described as the “Linear Pottery” culture. They were thought to have been peaceful people and responsible for turning forest areas into clear land and communities. How did they end, though? Findings made in Germany seem to hint at great violence: a mass grave revealing corpses that have been subject to massive violence were discovered by a team of researchers. The findings thereof have been published in the journal PNAS.
Part of the mass grave. Photo credits: Meyer et al/ PNAS.
Our ancestors cannot speak for themselves, narrating to us about their time, but some of their traces have remained behind, bearing testimony to their lives in the distant past. The peoples that walked our planet thousands of years ago have indeed left their marks on the Earth, in the form of fossils and other evidence. Recently, a 7,000-year-old mass grave discovered in Germany unveiling a surprising aspect of the first farming culture in central Europe has been documented. 26 corpses were found with lethal injuries that could be pointing at great violence in Neolithic Europe.
The new study is not the first of its kind. Another mass grave containing 34 bodies of men, women and children was discovered at Talheim in the south of Germany years ago. A troubling observation was made: signs of lethal wounds that might possibly have been caused by stone axes. That was not the only massacre to be discovered in the past. 67 bodies were also found in a ditch in Austria. They too seemed to have had the same fate: death by violent blows. Both of these findings date back to around 5000 BC. The timing implies that peace was not exactly a given at that time.
The latest findings from the new study led by Christian Meyer appear to add to the previous ones. A long trench at the site of Schöneck-Kilianstädten, central Germany, unveiled the remains of 26 people in a mass grave. They seem to have succumbed to multiple injuries caused by stone axes as well.
The deaths of around 30 people back then are thought to represent a massive event. Local villages of that time had only about 50 to 100 residents; therefore, losing 26 people at once is deemed to have been consequential.
Furthermore, Linear Pottery is thought to have disappeared at approximately the same time as those massacres.
The scientists believe that the mass graves were the result of an organised and large event. One of the speculations to explain this entails fighting over resources.
A skull of a child found with an enormous fracture. Photo credits: Christian Meyer.