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European cave carnage.

Eurpean cave carnage

In 1908, a German investigator exploring a cave in Bravaria known as Ofnet uncovered two small pits in which 38 human skulls lay bunched together, resembling, as he later wrote, "eggs in a nest." A new examination of the Ofnet remains indicates someone intentionally and violently cracked many of the cranial "eggs" before placing them in the cave, reports David W. Frayer of the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

"This is a unique site in European prehistory and provides convincing

evidence for inter-human violence more than 7,000 years ago," Frayer asserts. Radiocarbon dating provides an age estimate of approximately 7,200 years for the Ofnet skulls.

The two pits yield a total of five adults males, 10 adolescent and adult females, and 23 children and adolescents of undetermined sex. Several spinal bones from the neck also turned up. Of the 32 reasonably intact skulls, 18 possess at least one fairly large, oblong hole apparently caused by the impact of a blunt object, Frayer contends. These "bludgeon injuries" appear on individuals of all ages and occur on both the left and right sides of the head, he says. Males possess more holes per skull than females or the unsexed youngsters.

Moreover, incisions on the neck bones created by a sharp object suggest decapitation took place, Frayer maintains.

Although the reasons for the grisly demise of the Ofnet individuals remain unclear, violence may have assumed considerable social importance in human groups living in Europe from about 10,000 to 5,000 years ago, Frayer argues. In support of his theory, he cites recent documentation of significant amounts of warfare (SN: 2/9/91, p.88) and homicide (SN: 2/6/88, pp.90) among modern nonindustrial groups.
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Title Annotation:discovery of buried skulls in a Bavarian cave provides evidence for inter-human violence in European prehistory
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 20, 1991
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