The remains of a 6,000-year-old genocide in Alsace, north-east of France, have been uncovered by archeologists.
According to a team from the national Center for archeological preservation (Inrap) 10 bodies were discovered in one of 300 ancient silos, used to store grain and other items.
The Neolithic group appeared to have suffered horrific deaths and suffered many cuts to their heads, hands and skulls. The fact the bodies were bundled together indicates that they were slaughtered and thrown together in the silo.
“They were executed very brutally and suffered violent shocks, almost definitely from a steel axe,” said the Infrap expert Philippe Lefranc at the time.
The skeletons of five adults and an adolescent were found as well as four arms from different individuals. The arms were probably war trophies, like those found at a nearby burial site of Bergheim in 2012, said Lefranc.
The mutilations indicated a society of “furious, ritualised warriors”, he said, while the silos were stored within a defence wall that pointed towards “a troubled time, a period of insecurity”.
“Prehistory was never a gentle age,” notes one archaeologist. “The first conflicts and mass acts of cruelty appeared around 12,000 and 10,000 BC in societies preceding the Neolithic.”
Scholars describe the Aschenheim massacre as “an expression of ritualized military fury.”
It is hoped genetic testing on the bones will reveal more information about the killings, but Lefranc said one theory was that a local tribe had clashed with a group arriving from the area around modern-day Paris.
“It appears that a warrior raid by people from the Parisian basin went wrong for the assailants, and the Alsatians of the era massacred them,” he said.
However, in the long run, it was the “Parisians” who had the last laugh. The local tribe appear to have been supplanted by the newcomers at about 4,200 BC, as demonstrated by new funeral rites, pottery and hamlets.