A newly discovered mass grave indicates that prehistoric man routinely carried out brutally murderous raids on other villages to secure women for reproductive duty, say researchers from Durham University. Described in the journal Antiquity, the research focused on 34 skeletons found buried in the village of Talheim in the south-west of Germany. Analysis of the skeletons' teeth suggests they were killed around 5000 BC.
The researchers noted that among the group of skeletons there were men and children only. They conclude the absence of females indicates that they were spared execution and captured instead, which may have been the primary motivation for the attack.
"It seems this community was specifically targeted, as could happen in a cycle of revenge between rival groups. Women appear to be the immediate reason for the attack. Our analysis points to the local women being regarded as somehow special and were therefore kept alive," said study author Dr Alex Bentley.
Until now, most archaeological evidence pointed to prehistoric violence erupting over resources, overcrowding and property. These new findings are the first to suggest that prehistoric violence took place over mates.
The majority of the skeletons in the mass grave had been killed by a blow to the left side of the head, suggesting the victims were bound and killed, probably with a stone axe. Others may have been killed from arrow-wounds from behind, as if the victims had tried to flee.
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Source: Durham University