Washington, December 5 (ANI): A new study has said that an ancient settlement site in a village in Germany is providing hints of mass cannibalism prevalent at the area 7,000 years ago.
According to a report in Discovery News, anthropologist Bruno Boulestin of the University of Bordeaux in France and his colleagues carried out the study.
The village, now called Herxheim, offers rare evidence of cannibalism during Europe's early Neolithic period, when farming first spread.
Herxheim was first excavated from 1996 to 1999, yielding remains of a large structure, pottery and what appeared to be two parallel ditches encircling the settlement.
Closer inspection revealed that the ditches had been formed by overlapping pits that had been dug over several centuries, apparently not exclusively to hold the dead.
Initial excavations of these pits yielded deposits of large numbers of human and dog bones.
Artifacts found at Herxheim come from the Linear Pottery Culture, which flourished in western and central Europe from about 7,500 to 7,000 years ago.
Cannibalism at the village, now called Herxheim, may have occurred during ceremonies in which people from near and far brought slaves, war prisoners or other dependents for ritual sacrifice, proposes Boulestin.
A social and political crisis in central Europe at that time triggered various forms of violence, the researchers suspect.
"Human sacrifice at Herxheim is a hypothesis that's difficult to prove right now, but we have evidence that several hundred people were eaten over a brief period," Boulestin said.
Skeletal markings indicate that human bodies were butchered in the same way as animals.
At first, Boulestin's team thought that the dead were brought to Herxheim for ceremonial reburial.
But, Boulestin and his colleagues' opinion changed after they analyzed 217 reassembled human bones from one deposit, representing at least 10 individuals.
Damage typical of animal butchery appears on the bones, including that produced by a technique to separate the ribs from the spine, according to the scientists.
Heads were skinned and muscles removed from the brain case in order to remove the skullcap. Incisions and scrapes on jaws indicate that tongues were cut out.
Scrape marks inside the broken ends of limb bones indicate that marrow was removed.
"People most likely made the chewing marks found near intentionally broken ends of hand and arm bones," Boulestin said.
"Ongoing work at Herxheim has found signs of cannibalism on the bones of hundreds of other individuals, with only a few exceptions," he added. (ANI)