Earliest War Victims Lived Brutal Lives
Wendorf Archive, British Museum
Excavation photo of the two victims of violence. The pencils point to weapon fragments mixed with the bones. )
Italian archaeologists have unearthed a 2,600-year-old intact Etruscan tomb that promises to reveal new depths of one of the ancient world’s most fascinating and mysterious cultures.
The unique burial was found in Tarquinia, a hill town about 50 miles northwest of Rome famous for its Etruscan art treasures. The tomb was just a few feet away from the so-called Queen's Tomb, pictured here.
Blocked by a perfectly sealed stone slab, the rock-cut tomb in appeared promising even before opening it, just by dint of its location next to known royal tombs.
After 2,600 years, the heavy stone slab in front of the tomb was removed.
In the small vaulted chamber, the complete skeleton of an individual was resting on a stone bed on the left. A spear lay along the body, while brooches, on the chest indicated that the man was probably once dressed with a mantle.
At his feet stood a dish used during the funeral meal. Food remains were still there, after 2,600 years.
Near the dish with the food remains stood a large bronze basin, possibly used to wash the hands after the meal.
A stone table directly across from the man might contain the incinerated remains of another person.
Decorated with a red strip, the upper part of the wall featured, along with several nails, a small hanging vase, which might have contained some ointment.
A number of grave goods, which included large Greek Corinthian vases and precious ornaments, lay on the floor.
Sometimes, old bones have new stories to tell.
A collection of skeletons from 13,000 years ago, recovered from the east bank of the Nile river in the 1960s, are revealing what could be the oldest known victims of a war, according to news reports.
The skeletons are marked with slashes, embedded metal shards and bone breaks from what experts say were unmistakably arrowheads, some lashed to the top of long-decayed wooden poles. The injuries were gruesome.
Renee Friedman, curator of the British Museum's new Early Egypt exhibit, told The Guardian newspaper: "Often with remains from such an ancient time, we will never know what happened to them. With these skeletons there is no question: we found arrow heads lodged in spines, spear points that had pierced eye sockets, and many that clearly died under a hail of arrows. The lives and deaths of these people were not nice."
Among the skeletons were many women and children, which shows that the times they lived in were brutal. Experts think that resources were scarce in the area, which was cold and dry with little fertile land.
The region was in the throes of abrupt climate change 13,000 years ago, in a period called The Younger Dryas. During that time, Earth's climate began a shift to a warmer period from a cold, glacial world.
But in the midst of that warming, melting glaciers cooled the North Atlantic Ocean and land temperatures suddenly plunged, according to the National Climactic Data Center (NOAA).
Toward the end of The Younger Dryas, land temperatures shot up again -- 18 degrees Farenheit (10 Celcius) in a decade, NOAA said.
Consequently, the people of northern Sudan, while hardy, strong boned and jawed, were struggling and likely constantly fought over resources, The Guardian said. The British Museum skeletons are evidence of that.
They were found, in the 1960s, in a cemetery, carefully placed lying on their sides, heads to the south and facing east, toward the Nile's source and the rising sun, the Guardian said.
The Jebel Sahaba cemetery skeletons were collected quickly, before the area was flooded to create a dam. The British Museum housed them for decades before archaeologists started looking at them closely again.