You might not think of archaeology as a gruesome profession. However, humans have quite the violent past. Most archaeologists studying ancient civilizations routinely come into contact with some of the worst and most disturbing aspects of human history. Below are just a sample of things found on archeological digs.
During an archaeological expedition into the Alaskan wilderness, researchers uncovered what they believed were the remains of a 3-year-old child. The child was burned and buried in the family hearth. According to the researchers, the remains were at least 11,500 years old. Understandably, there were a few people on the dig who were unnerved by what they found.
2. Remnants Of A Cannibal Attack.
In 2010, a group of researchers in Spain uncovered evidence of what appeared to be a cannibal attack on a Neanderthal family. Archaeologists uncovered the bones of three adult females, three adults males, three teenagers, two children, and one infant. All of the bones showed signs that they had been gnawed and chewed. Quite a nasty way to go.
Railroad workers in Dorset County, England, discovered something gruesome while they were digging out an area for new tracks: a small group of headless Viking warriors buried in the ground. At first, researchers believed that local villagers may have taken their revenge on a Viking raiding party. Upon a closer look, the beheadings are too clean, and they seem to have been done from the front instead of the back. No one is quite sure what happened.
4. Claw Of An Upland Moa.
In 1986, deep inside the huge cave system of Mount Owen, New Zealand, archaeologists came across this well-preserved and terrifying claw. Once they got the claw out of the cave and into the lab, they determined that it belonged to a giant prehistoric bird known as an upland moa. Looking at the claw now, I”m very glad they are extinct.
Archaeologists uncovered something shocking from 8,000 years ago underneath a dry lakebed in Motala, Sweden. In the dried muck, they found several skulls with stakes driven all of the way through them. To make things worse, one of the skulls had pieces of the other skulls jammed inside it.
The Grauballe Man is a mummified bog body uncovered by researchers in the U.K. Beyond his fully preserved hair and fingernails, what makes the Grauballe Man significant is that he was probably a human sacrifice. Researchers concluded this from the large wound wrapping around his neck. It”s likely that he was sacrificed for a better harvest.
7. The Vampire Of Venice.
In the past, fear of dearly departed loved ones coming back as vampires was very real. There were a number of ways that people dealt with this fear, including burning bodies and burying the dead facedown. Failing that, sometimes a brick was placed in the mouth of the dead. This was considered the foolproof way to ensure that no vampire would be able to suck your blood. The skull pictured above was found with a brick in its mouth in a mass grave outside Venice, Italy.
8. The World”s First Leper.
Despite leprosy not being very contagious, the disease still carried a stigma throughout human history. During an archaeological survey in India, researchers found a 4,000-year-old skeleton they believe is the oldest evidence of leprosy. Hindu tradition dictates that the dead be cremated, so the fact that this skeleton survived intact is further evidence that this person was rejected from society because of their condition.
When archaeologists in Israel excavated the sewers under an old Roman bathhouse, they found something extremely disturbing: the bones of hundreds of infants. There was no evidence as to why someone thought it was a good idea to dispose of so many young children in the sewer. Hopefully, they were already dead when their remains were placed there.
10. Ancient Chemical Warfare.
The Romans controlled the Syrian city of Dura 2,000 years ago. The Persian Empire wanted the city, so it decided to lay siege to Dura. During the siege, Persian soldiers attempted to breach the city gates by digging tunnels.
Roman soldiers dug their own series of tunnels to try to intercept the Persians. However, the Persians saw them coming and set a deadly chemical trap for the Roman soldiers. When the Romans set off the trap, a cloud of petrochemical smoke billowed through the tunnel.
Researchers aren”t sure exactly what the gas contained, but are confident it would have turned the Romans” lungs to acid. One researcher suggested that breathing the gas would have been like breathing “the fumes of hell.”
(via Live Science, List 25)
I”m glad that humanity is no longer this nasty and brutish. However, the archaeologists of the future might look back at 2015 and think we led brutal and primitive lives. Only time will tell.