Category Archives: FRANCE

Pit of Amputated arms in France from 6,000 years ago suggest war and trophy taking

Pit of Amputated arms in France from 6,000 years ago suggest war and trophy taking

6,000 years ago, a circular pit with the bodies of seven people on a bed with seven arms sheds fresh light on violent disputes. Experts claim the gruesome discovery tells the tale of a devastating raid on a settlement in eastern France that may have wiped out an entire family.

Bloodthirsty attackers will also take arms as war trophies and tortured the victims before burying their bodies.

The 6.5ft (two metres) deep circular pit was found in Bergheim by archaeologists from Antea Archéologie in Habsheim and the universities of Strasbourg and Bordeaux. 

A circular pit, bearing the skeletons of seven people placed on a bed of severed arms (pictured), is shedding new light on violent conflicts of 6,000 years ago. The 6.5ft (two metres) deep circular pit was found in Bergheim by archaeologists from Antea Archéologie in Habsheim and the universities of Strasbourg and Bordeaux
A circular pit, bearing the skeletons of seven people placed on a bed of severed arms (pictured), is shedding new light on violent conflicts of 6,000 years ago. The 6.5ft (two metres) deep circular pit was found in Bergheim by archaeologists from Antea Archéologie in Habsheim and the universities of Strasbourg and Bordeaux

It contains seven human skeletons and part of a child’s skull on top of the remains of seven amputated human arms. The find, dubbed Pit 157, measures almost 5ft (1.5 metres) in diameter at the base and 6.2ft (1.9 metres) in diameter at its top.

The experts believe two men, one woman and four children were killed in a raid or some sort of violent encounter.  Their bodies were thrown in the pit on top of a pile of left arms, thought to have been fractured then hacked off using hand axes.

Scattered hand bones on the bottom layer suggest hands from severed limbs were chopped into pieces. Study author Fanny Chenal of Inrap told Gizmodo: ‘For a long time, Neolithic societies were considered relatively egalitarian and peaceful. 

‘But for several years a lot of research has shown that it was not the case.’

In fact, she thinks the war was common in Neolithic times and while there is no clear evidence of this in France, there is evidence in Germany from the same time. It is not clear to whom the arms belong, since the skeletons on top of them have both their arms, apart from the remains of one male.

As well as missing his arm, which may or may not be in the pit, his skull shows signs of violence that likely resulted in his death. The researchers are unsure whether the burial suggests some sort of macabre post-battle ritual. 

A Neolithic axe from France
The gruesome find seemingly tells the tale of a devastating raid that may have wiped out an entire family. This graphic shows the jumble of skeletons, shown in different colours to differentiate them. Carbon dating shows the bones are between 5,500 and 6,000 years old

They are also unsure why the attackers targeted people’s left arms, however, they hypothesise the limbs may have been hacked off as war trophies. Dr Chanal said the arms were buried with the remains but think they are from the same social group.

‘Pit 157 represents clear evidence of what was probably an act of inter-group armed violence, that is to say, “war,” although the true nature of these practices remains difficult to understand,’ explained the study. 

Carbon dating shows the bones are between 5,500 and 6,000 years old. At this time, it was common for bodies to be buried in circular pits among farming communities across central and Western Europe.

But the unusual Bergheim grave is the first evidence that those butchered in raids were buried in the same way. Dr Chenal added: ‘It’s a very important result, but it raises more questions than it answers.’

There is already debate about whether such circular pits were remnants of storage pits and repurposed for people not deemed worthy of a grander burial, or were used for high-ranking people.

The bodies were thrown in the pit on top of a pile of left arms thought to have been fractured then hacked off using hand axes. This image from the journal Antiquity shows notches from an attack on the arm bones
Pit of Amputated arms in France from 6,000 years ago suggest war and trophy taking
Scattered hand bones on the bottom layer suggest hands from severed limbs were chopped into pieces. These images shown the severed arm bones at the bottom of the pit, with the other skeletons removed

Some pits containing the remains of several people suggest slaves or relatives were killed to be buried with an important person, and there are even theories saying circular pits were used for human sacrifices.

But the study explained: ‘The evidence from pit 157 undoubtedly testifies to armed violence, and the amputated arms, most probably trophies, are suggestive of an act of war. 

‘The presence of women and children in the pit does not go against this hypothesis: They may have been victims of raids, killed on the scene of the confrontation or captured and executed afterwards – although women and children were often enslaved, they were also sometimes tortured and killed.

‘Whether they were victims of warfare or the recipients of judicial punishment, the case supports the idea that the haphazardly deposited individuals were either dependants or excluded individuals.’

Of the 60 pits uncovered in Bergheim, 14 contained human bones and only one, described in the study published in the journal Antiquity, showed signs of violence or limb loss. It is possible the victims were either tortured, or their limbs were amputated after death to intimidate the living or offend the dead – a practice documented in Florida in the 16th century, which seems to echo that of the Bergheim burial. 

‘The evidence from this site challenges the simplicity of existing interpretations, and demands a more critical focus on the archaeological evidence for acts of systematic violence during this period,’ the study concluded.

It is not clear to whom the arms belong, since the skeletons on top of them have both their arms, apart from one man whose skull also shows signs of violence (shown above) that likely resulted in his death. A child’s skullcap was also found on top of the pile of bones, plus the remains of a separate female
The researchers said it is possible the victims were either tortured, or their limbs were amputated after death to intimidate the living, or offend the dead. This practice, documented in Florida in the 16th century (illustrated), which seems to echo that of the Bergheim burial

New Study Redates Two Lower Paleolithic Sites in France

New Study Redates Two Lower Paleolithic Sites in France

A publication in the journal Quaternary International led by Dr Mathieu Duval, Ramón y Cajal Research Fellow at the Centro Nacional de Investigación Sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), is based on the use of an unprecedented combination of three different dating techniques, namely Electron Spin Resonance (ESR), Luminescence and Palaeomagnetism, to date two Lower Palaeolithic sites in France.

“The initial purpose of this study was to refine the chronology of these two sites, which are amongst the oldest evidence of the human presence in Western Europe, north of the 45°N latitude, before 500,000 years ago”, says Dr Duval.

“They were previously dated using one method only, and we now provide an independent age assessment, based on a multi-technique approach that enables to build a robust chronological framework.”

The two archaeological sites have delivered lithic tools that are typical of the Lower Palaeolithic, the oldest cultural period identified in Europe. The first one, Lunery-la Terre-des-Sablons, provided an Oldowan lithic industry similar to that found at other sites such as Atapuerca Gran Dolina, Sima del Elefante, Barranco León or Fuente Nueva-3 (Spain).

Initially dated to about 1.1 million years, the new study indicated a more complex site formation process than thought earlier, and a minimum age of 710,000 years is now proposed for the lithic tools.

In contrast, the new age results obtained for the second site, Brinay-la Noira, are in excellent agreement with those obtained previously. They confirm the age of the lithic industry to around 650,000 years, making the site one of the oldest Acheulean site in Western Europe.

“Nowadays, the number of old archaeological sites in Western Europe is still very limited, which is why it essential to obtain at least an accurate dating for those that have been found and excavated so far.

These new dating results will undoubtedly contribute to improving our understanding of the timing of the early human settlements in Western Europe”, concludes Prof. Josep M. Parés, co-author of the work and Head of the Geochronology and Geology Programme at CENIEH.

This work is the result of an international scientific collaboration involving researchers from various prestigious institutions such as the CENIEH (Spain), Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (France) and University of Adelaide (Australia).


The Geochronology and Geology Programme at CENIEH, Spain, hosts a unique combination of world-class facilities and international researchers fully dedicated to Human Evolution.

One of the main research lines of the program consists in refining the chronology of the early human occupations in the Mediterranean area, with a special emphasis on the combination of different dating methods in order to obtain more robust chronologies.

This approach has been recently employed to provide the first direct age on Homo antecessor from Atapuerca Gran Dolina, or to date, the oldest evidence of the human presence in North Africa, found at Ain Boucherit (Algeria).

Roman Mosaics Frozen in Time Uncovered in France

Roman Mosaics Frozen in Time Uncovered in France

A lost Roman city dating back to the first century B.C. has been uncovered in spectacular fashion in the south of France.

Archaeologists working the site ahead of the construction for a boarding school and a cafeteria were stunned to discover a wide array of structural ruins, walls, and an organized street network.

Putting the pieces together, it was determined that the team had discovered the remains of the Roman city of Ucetia.

“Prior to our work, we knew that there had been a Roman city called Ucetia only because its name was mentioned on stela in Nimes, alongside 11 other names of Roman towns in the area.

It was probably a secondary town, under the authority of Nimes. No artefacts had been recovered except for a few isolated fragments of mosaic,” archaeologist Philippe Cayn told the International Business Times.

An archeologist cleans the floor of one of the mosaics discovered in the lost Roman city of Ucetia.

As it turns out, those isolated fragments may have been pieces of a beautifully preserved series of mosaic floors found in the remains of a 2,600-square-foot Roman home on the site.

One of the two, nearly-complete, mosaic panels uncovered in the South of France.

One of the mosaics discovered covers nearly 650 square feet, making it one of the largest ever discovered in the South of France.

A close-up of the tiny colored stones shows just how complex and immaculately preserved they are. Archaeologists say the artworks likely date back to the first century or earlier.

One of the medallions is surrounded by four multicolored animals including an owl, a duck, an eagle and a fawn.

The archaeologists speculate that the animals may represent the Roman gods, with the eagle of Jupiter, the owl of Minerva, the doe of Diana and the duck of Sequana.

The partially uncovered remains of an ancient paved roadway from the Roman city of Ucetia.

Next to the building containing the mosaics, the archaeologists uncovered the remains of an ancient paved roadway equipped with a gutter border. They also found fragments of ancient mural paintings, a wine cellar, and even the remains of a complex underfloor heating system.

An aerial view of a portion of the site uncovered by archeologists

A Lost Roman City Has Been Discovered in Southern France

A Lost Roman City Has Been Discovered in Southern France

Hidden for centuries, mosaic floors from the lost Roman city of Ucetia have been discovered in France. A large excavation is underway in the town of Uzes in southern France to unearth more of the remain’s of this ancient Roman settlement, the existence of which archaeologists had only hints of until the dig.

A Lost Roman City Has Been Discovered in Southern France
One of the most impressive finds was a mosaic floor, dating back the second half of the 1st century B.C., discovered in the ruins of what’s thought to be a Roman public building.

The nearby city of Nimes is more famous for its Roman history, largely thanks to the A.D. 70 amphitheater, where events, including bullfights, still take place. Less is known about Uzes, once called Ucetia.

But before the construction of dormitories for a high school there, archaeologists were brought in to investigate a 43,000 square-foot (4,000 square meters) area for pieces of the city’s history.

The French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) announced that the dig has so far been very fruitful.

Some of the wall’s and structures that were uncovered date to just before the Roman conquest of present day France (called Gaul at the time).

But the most visually stunning find’s are the well preserved Roman era mosaic floors with richly colored patterns and figures.

The archaeologist’s discovered one large structure, 2,700 square feet (250 square meters) in area, with a colonnade that suggest’s it was a public building, and four rooms in a row.

One of those large rooms contains a complex mosaic pavement with geometric patterns like meanders and swastikas, as well as symbols like crowns and chevrons, and animals like an owl, duck, eagle, and fawn.

The archaeologist think this building dates to the first century B.C. and was maintained until the first century A.D.

In another area at the site, the archaeologist unearthed a”domus,” or a large house belonging to a wealthy Roman family.

This building sprawls over 5380 square feet (500 square meters) and dates to the early Roman Empire (1stcentury B.C.).

A room in this family home has a mosaic floors with a geometric pattern, accompanied by stylized dolphins in the four corners.

The home also had a type of central heating system; archaeologist’s found a “hypocaust,” or a crawl space supported by brick columns where hot air would have circulated.

And several “dolia,” or huge ceramic wine vessels, were found there, suggesting the inhabitants might have drunk homemade wines.

The 1.5 million euro ($1.6 million) dig is ongoing, and, according to INRAP, the archaeologists have recently begun excavating another large area of ancient and medieval ruins, including two roads and an intersection.

Possible Remains of 16th-Century French Philosopher Examined

Possible Remains of 16th-Century French Philosopher Examined

The AFP reports that researchers are examining human remains recovered from a tomb discovered in late 2019 in the basement of the Aquitaine Museum, which is located in southwestern France.

In the sixteenth century, the building housed a convent where the remains of philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who served as mayor of Bordeaux from 1581 to 1585, may have come to rest after his body was moved several times following his death in 1592. 

The Musee d’Aquitaine in the southwestern city of Bordeaux had in November launched work to examine the remains in the tomb a basement of the museum, which occupies the premises of a convent where Montaigne, famed for his lofty but highly readable “Essays”, was buried.

The bones found are those of a “single individual. It is an adult and it is probably a man,” Helene Reveillas, an archaeo-anthropologist for the Bordeaux region, told reporters.

“We have elements which do not go against the idea that this is de Montaigne. But we also have nothing which allows us to affirm it with certainty”, she added.

This file photo was taken on March 20, 2018, shows the cenotaph of the late French writer Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) displayed following restoration works at the Musee d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux.

“The mystery remains,” she said.

Montaigne was one of the city’s most famous sons and served as its mayor from 1581 to 1585. Speculation that his remains are housed already within a museum in Bordeaux had caused huge excitement last year.

The opening of the tomb last year revealed a wooden coffin with the word “Montaigne” written in large brown letters.

The lead coffin was opened this week, revealing “a well-preserved skeleton” and a skull “with almost all of its teeth” as well as the remains of tissue, pollens and insects, according to the archaeologist.

Laboratory research, including using carbon 14 dating, will now be carried out by about twenty scientists.

They will particularly be on the lookout for evidence of the kidney stones from which the writer was known to have suffered.

Reveillas added: “We know that his heart was removed after his death” at the request of his widow, noting that “operation leaves its traces”.

Other techniques set to be used in the follow-up include “facial reconstruction” and genealogical research on possible descendants, Reveillas said.

Results are expected next year.

There has long been confusion over the location of the remains of de Montaigne after the body was shifted between numerous sites after his death in 1592 at the age of 59.

Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in a cave

Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in a cave

The discovery was made in a cave in France, which contained the remains of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who died some 30,000 years ago.

First discovered 20 years ago, the Grotte de Cussac cave is located in the southwest of the country. Frequented by members of the Gravettian culture of the European Upper Paleolithic, the finding shed fresh light on the burial rituals of Paleolithic humans.

The group left evidence scattered across the continent of Europe, appearing around 33,000 years ago. Particularly notable for its prolific cave art “Venus” figurines portraying voluptuous female figures and elaborate burial rituals, the culture has become famous among archaeologists.

France’s Lascaux cave and a crouched ancient skeleton found in Britain.

Researchers studied the cave and published their study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Here, an international team analyzed the caves remains using photographs and 3D rendering.

They concluded that the site provided a “unique” setting for the dead in the Paleolithic. Previous papers had reported the presence of human remains inside the cave.

However, the newest study is the first to provide a detailed description of all of them and a comprehensive analysis of the mortuary behaviours that led to the particular distribution of the bones. Contact with the cave’s surfaces is prohibited, forcing researchers to use indirect examination techniques.

The Carnac Neolithic standing stones in western France erected by pre-Celtic people

The researchers reported that the cave contained two areas of human remains. The first included the skeleton of a young adult male in a shallow depression that was once a bear nest, as well as the fragmentary remains of at least two other individuals spread across two other former bear nests.

Deeper in the cave, the second area, containing the remains of at least three individuals—two adults and an adolescent—in hollows along a wall, which appeared to be sorted largely by lower and upper anatomy.

Some of the bones and underlying sediments featured a red pigment that the researchers have linked to the remains. Many of the burials were similar to traits discovered in other Gravettian sites. But the authors of the paper say a handful of characteristics appear unique to this ancient culture.

For example, the researchers said the remains were found much further inside the cave than is typical and are associated with abundant rock art— an unusual feature for Gravettian burial sites — with the cave containing more than 800 engravings.

“These human remains are located deep in the cave, which is a unique finding for this period—all previously known Gravettian burials are located in open-air sites, rock shelters, or cave entrances,” Sacha Kacki, with the French National Center for Scientific Research, told Newsweek.

He added: “The Grotte de Cussac is not only a burial place but also a decorated cave. It is quite rare that Gravettian human remains are found close to (cave) art, and the Grotte de Cussac is the first discovered cave where the mortuary rites and the art are very likely contemporaneous.”

According to the authors, the findings shed new light on the burial practices of Gravettian hunter-gatherers, providing evidence of significant social complexity during the Upper Paleolithic (roughly 50,000 to 12,000 years ago.)

Mr. Kacki said: “Most of the human remains in Cussac are disarticulated due to human manipulations of bones or body parts after or during decomposition.

“Although post-mortem manipulations of human remains have been previously documented for other Gravettian sites, some types of manipulations at Cussac are unknown elsewhere, including the removal of crania and the deliberate commingling of the remains of several individuals.

“These observations indicate diverse and complex mortuary behaviors during the Gravettian, which provides a window onto the social complexity of human groups from the Upper Paleolithic.”

Lavau Celtic Prince: 2,500-year-old royal tomb starts to reveal its secrets

Lavau Celtic Prince: 2,500-year-old royal tomb starts to reveal its secrets

The eastern village of Lavau became world-renowned when archeologists found the tomb of the ancient Celtic prince from the 5th century BCE.

As it is now known, the tomb of the Prince of Lavau holds many mysteries that archaeologists have sought to uncover during the last two years. Some of the stunning artifacts recovered next to the deceased have now be sent to a French lab for analysis – and the first results are starting to emerge.

A number of objects, including the prince’s belt, appear to be extremely valuable as they are unique. Other artifacts bear witness to the cultural exchanges which took place at the time between different civilizations.

A lucky discovery

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Preventive Archaeology (INRAP) were asked to search a site on the outskirts of Lavau, in the heart of a small business industrial park, before construction works could be given the go-ahead.

After finding well-preserved Greek and Etruscan artifacts, the French state ordered a more detailed exploration of the area.

The tomb was found near the village of Lavau, France.

The archaeologists ended up discovering beautiful artifacts from the 5th century BCE, starting with a bronze cauldron ornamented with the head of the god Dionysus.

The remains of the prince were found a little later, laid out on his chariot. The skeleton was still wearing the same fine gold jewellery he was buried with.

This was considered to be the most important archaeological discovery made in France in recent decades – comparable to the 1953’s discovery of grave belonging to the so-called ‘Lady of Vix’.

Thie huge bronze cauldron is one of the most important pieces found in the tomb.

Archaeologists have started to document some of the artifacts, using X-ray radiography and tomography as well as 3D photography to gather information about their composition and morphology – and to learn more about their state of conservation.

Elaborate objects in a multicultural world

So far, X-ray radiography shows that the belt worn by the prince is decorated with threads of silver, assembled together to form Celtic motifs. This is a unique object, as none similar has ever been recovered elsewhere before.

Furthermore, an analysis of the metals in the bronze cauldron – one of the most elaborate artifacts recovered from the grave – suggests that the people who created it perfectly mastered smelting and engraving techniques.

More importantly, perhaps, 3D photography and chemical analyses of the objects reveal influences from different cultures in the way they were decorated. For instance, a large jar used to pour wine is made up of Greek-style ceramic and decorated with golden Etruscan motifs and silver Celtic designs.

This beautiful Greek vase found in the cauldron with the prince was used to pour wine.

These findings reveal that cultural and economic interactions were taking place between the Celtic and Mediterranean worlds at the time the Lavau Celtic Prince was alive.

Analyses will go on until 2020, to try and find out more about the prince’s identity and to learn more about the origins of all the objects he had taken with him in the afterlife.

Already, the researchers have solved one of the most important mysteries they had been confronted with after discovering the tomb – they showed that the deceased was indeed a prince and not a princess. While golden jewels recovered on the skeleton could have belonged to a female, the shape of the pelvic bones suggest he was a male.

The Lavau Prince rests on his chariot with gold jewels.

Archaeologists Discovered a ‘Little Pompeii’ in France

Archaeologists Discovered a ‘Little Pompeii’ in France

A whole Roman neighborhood near the French town of Lyon has been discovered by archeologists. The location became quickly known as “Mini Pompeii” on the size of 7,000 square feet.

French archaeologists are describing their discovery as a “little Pompeii,” referring to the Roman city-state in present-day Italy that was well preserved after being buried by volcanic ash in the 1st century.

The site discovered in southern France holds some remarkably well-preserved remains of luxury homes and public buildings on the banks of the Rhone River dating back to Roman days, as reported by the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency.

“We’re unbelievably lucky. This is undoubtedly the most exceptional excavation of a Roman site in 40 or 50 years,” Benjamin Clement, the archaeologist leading the project, told AFP.

The local French newspaper Courrier Picard meanwhile quoted Clement as saying, “This is an unprecedented opportunity.”

The city of Vienne – already famous for its Roman theater and temple – is situated at what used to be an important stop on the route connecting the northern Gaul region with the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis in what is today southern France.

The new excavation site is located on the outskirts of the southeastern city of Vienne about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Lyon.

The site was discovered while the land above it was awaiting the construction of a major housing complex there. The French culture ministry labeled the dig an “exceptional find.”

Tiles, mosaics, and a philosophy school

The Roman neighborhood is believed to contain homes dating back to the 1st century AD and is assumed to have been inhabited for around 300 years before that. It seems to have been abandoned after a number of fires, as reported by AFP.

Among the structures to have partly survived is a home dubbed the Bacchanalian House. While a fire appears to have consumed the first floor, roof, and balcony of the luxurious home, parts of the collapsed structure survived, boasting balustrades, marble tiling, expansive gardens, and a water supply system.

Archaeologists led by Clement believe the house must have belonged to a wealthy merchant.

“We will be able to restore this house from the floor to the ceiling,” Clement told AFP.

An abundance of mosaics, one depicting the god of the satyrs, Pan, kidnapping Thalia, the muse and patron of comedy, was also reportedly found at the excavation site.

The archaeologists also found a large building at the site of a former market believed to have been reserved for public use. Clement believes it may have housed a philosophy school.

Researchers hope to restore artifacts for exhibition at the Museum of Gallo-Roman civilization in Vienne by 2020. 

Work meanwhile continues at the site until the end of the year, allowing time for further discoveries to be unearthed.