As much as we like to think that we are understanding and open-minded about the past, sometimes we’re confronted by something that seems totally alien to our modern eyes. Such a discovery was made in a sleepy little community called Herxheim, Germany - THREAD 1/
Herxheim is situated in the Rheinland-Palatinate, on the wine-road that winds through the region. It's quaint, it's old, and in 1996, skulls turned up in a construction site. 2/
Building was stopped and an archaeological excavation begun. What emerged was a small village - no more than a grouping of huts really - that dates back to the Linear Pottery Culture, around 7000 years ago, give or take a century. /3
Among the finds from the village were flint tools, arrowheads and pottery from a wide area - clearly, the community was active in trade and was part of a larger network. So far, so good. /4
What the archaeologists found curious, and what we might find shocking was the semi-circular ditch around the village, full of disarticulated skeletons - skulls in regular concentrations. /5
What’s more, the bones showed knife marks consistent with scraping to sever meat and cracking to get at marrow. Finger bones showed evidence of chewing. Skulls consistently showed a split, as if to get at the brain matter inside. /6
Studies also showed that tongues were removed, and heads skinned. Based on the evidence, it appeared that all of these bodies were placed there within a relatively short space of time - 50 years. /7
What was going on here? There could have been anywhere up to 1000 individuals in the ditch - enough to suggest organized, ritual deposition of bodies and yes, cannibalism. /8
Was this some kind of necropolis, where the revered dead were prepared for the afterlife, separated from their earthly bonds, giving their essence back to their families? /9
Or was this a place where war dead were disposed of, enemies consumed in a final act of desecration? We know next to nothing about the beliefs of these people, or their rituals. All we know is represented in the physical remains. /10
As much as we’d like to understand, sometimes the centuries between us and the distant past are too much They simply remove any context we might be able to cling to. /11
All we can do is be patient, look for clues elsewhere, formulate new hypotheses and test them against what we know for sure. Slowly, eventually, we may gain more understanding - but that’s not assured. /12
If you’d like to know more about the Herxheim dig, here’s a good explainer. /13 https://www.wired.com/2009/12/controversial-signs-of-mass-cannibalism/ …
I hope you liked that one. I’m intensely enjoying bringing these stories to you. If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to let me know - and please, spread the word! /FIN
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