Culture Clash

Digs & Discoveries September/October 2016

(Philippe Lefranc, Inrap)

In northeastern France’s Alsace region, a team from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research has discovered graphic evidence for a violent Neolithic-era clash of cultures. While digging in a fortified village dating to between 4400 and 4200 B.C., archaeologists unearthed a storage pit that held the mutilated remains of five men and one teenage boy, as well as four severed left arms. Archaeologist Philippe Lefranc suggests the limbs were battlefield trophies, and that the skeletons belonged to members of a captured enemy war party. “I think we are seeing ritualized violence against captives who were initially alive,” says Lefranc. “It probably took place in the middle of the village during a victory celebration. All the remains were eventually thrown in a ritual refuse dump.” Lefranc thinks the enemy warriors were from a new population migrating into the area from the Paris Basin to the west. Despite losing this round, they eventually triumphed. At the end of the fifth millennium, the local pottery style and burial rituals were replaced by those of the newcomers, and all the old villages in Alsace were relocated.