Human remains found at a 7,000-year-old burial site in southwest Germany have markings similar to those found on animals that have been spit-roasted. According to lead researcher Bruno Boulestin, these markings are signs of cannibalism.
The team also found cuts suggestive of meat being scraped from the bones, and bones with the ends broken, as if to facilitate scraping out the marrow. Dr Boulestin said the cuts and markings on the bones provided evidence the bodies of the more than 500 victims, including children and fetuses, were intentionally mutilated, and the victims were butchered and eaten in the same way as animals [Physorg.com]. However, other scientists say the findings, which are published in the journal Antiquity, could have another, less gruesome, explanation.
The markings are also consistent with a reburial ritual in which flesh is scraped from the bone, according to researchers Miriam Haidle and Jorg Orschiedt. But Boulestin says he originally thought the same thing, until a closer examination of over 2oo remains from at least 10 different people revealed chewing and scraping more akin to cannibalism.
Damage typical of animal butchery appears on the bones, including that produced by a technique to separate the ribs from the spine, [Boulestin and his colleagues] say. 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 says [Science News]. However, the dissenting researchers say the removal of lower jaws and skull bases is also consistent with reburial rituals, and that proving cannibalism 7,000 years after the fact is nearly impossible.
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