Possible Neolithic cannibalism in Germany

This one  is all over the news today. At a site dating to 7,000 BP in Herxheim, Germany, they have found human remains that seem to bear the signs of being butchered for meat. While this isn’t pleasant, it’s not exactly unheard of from many locations around the world. But the scale, about 500 victims- possibly up to 1000, is unusual.

That’s a lot of corpses for a tiny Stone Age village. There were 10 buildings at most here in the last phase of the Linear Pottery culture of the European Neolithic Age around 5,000 to 4,950 years BC. The corpses weren’t native to this area, researchers have discovered. They came from all over Europe — from the area of what is now Paris, from the Moselle River 100 kilometers to the northwest and even from the Elbe River valley some 400 kilometers away. The broken bits of pottery lying between their ribs reveal their origin. It’s the so-called Linear Pottery that gave the entire population group its name: decorated with linear patterns pressed into the moist clay while it was being made.

 I’d recommend going to the this news article which has a lot of images and more information than I just can’t be bothered to type in right now. The ceramics were apparently from the Paris and Elbe valley about 400 kilometres away, showing how far people had come to get to the site. 

There’s a link to the magazine the full article was in (you need to subscribe).

There’s some disagreement as to whether the people were eaten, the remains seem to have been people in good health and not killed in battle, that had been brought to the region with ceramics that were broken at the site.  It’s quite possible this was some kind of religious behaviour involving de-fleshing of the bones rather than cannibalism. This behaviour only seems to have lasted for a 50 year time span.

Note: I will get around to clearing the comments backlog- I’m down to 200 now…be patient.

About these ads

One response to “Possible Neolithic cannibalism in Germany

  1. I don’t apply modern morality or attitudes to past populations. Cannibalism is a very emotion packed word to use of human beings. It is even very emotion of animals which frequently make meals of their own kind. Maybe a better word should have been used, more realistic to the behaviour, I don’t mean political correctness, just realistic not emotive words.

    Sounds fairly ritualistic to me. Pilgrimages from far and wide to this place in modern Germany. Cannibals go for two things first: the brain, and the liver. Bone marrow is next on the list. There would many smashed bones, skulls cracked open if cannibalism was the function rather than ritualistic killings to some deity, or just guaranteeing the Sun’s return after a long, bitter cold, Winter.

    I think 7,000 years is stretching the Neolithic Age a bit far back in time for that part of Europe. The people were most likely Mesolithic Europeans still dependent on hunting and gathering.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s