Archaeology may not be the swashbuckling, adventurous endeavor that the Indiana Jones franchise would have us believe, but it can have its spooky moments.
Sure, archaeologists don’t usually get into bar fights with Nazis over ancient relics, but they do have to deal with a lot of skeletons. Piecing together the lives and deaths of those who lived thousands of years ago is an important part of the job, and every once in a while, they come across an ancient death with disturbingly dark story. Here are a few of the weirdest archaeological finds of all time.
The Headless Vikings
In 2009, a mass grave of 51 Viking warriors from the first and second centuries A.D. was discovered in England. It is believed that the Vikings were executed by Anglo-Saxons after traveling from far-flung nations. Why were they there? No one really knows for sure.
Sacred Ridge is an archaeological site located eight miles from Durango, Colorado, and it was home to the early Anasazi people. At first glance, the site looked innocent to researchers. But below two ancient housing structures, they found something wretched — nearly 14,882 human bone fragments, all of which showed evidence of mutilation. Scientists believe that these remnants belonged to people of a different ethnic group, which suggests that they fell victim to genocide.
Ancient Persian Chemical Warfare
In 256 A.D., 19 Roman soldiers attempted to defend the Roman city of Dura-Europos, which is in modern-day Syria. Huddled in an underground tunnel, they awaited the Persian advance. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t met by infantrymen, but by mysterious smoke (made from sulfur and bitumen) which killed them almost instantly. About 2,000 years later, their remains were found by archeologists, along with the remains of a Persian man clutching his chest. Researchers believe that this is the first recorded case of chemical warfare.
Egyptian Pits of Severed Hands
In the ancient city of Avaris, researchers found evidence of a brutal practice that, well, got a little out of hand. Apparently, the Hyksos people, who ruled there around 3,600 years ago, were in the habit of removing the hands of their vanquished foes in order to count them. How do we know that they did this? Well, evidence found in 2012 came in the form of an ancient pit full of hands.
Sweden’s Staked Skulls
Thought to be some kind of ceremonial site, archaeologists discovered an 8,000-year-old settlement near Motala, Sweden, that was lined with skulls on stakes. Even stranger is that they found remnants of a female skull stuffed inside of another female skull. Scientists believe that this bizarre practice was part of an ancient ritual, but beyond that, not much is known.
Baby Bones in Roman Baths
In 2014, archaeologists found strange bones while exploring Roman bathhouses in Israel. At first, they thought that they were chicken bones, but they later figured out that they belonged to babies — more than 100 babies, to be exact. Interestingly, none of the remains showed signs of illness, leading researchers to believe that during this time in Roman history, infants were killed by people who didn’t want them.
Cannibal Gangs in Prehistoric Spain
In 1994, the remains of 12 Neanderthals were found in Sidron Cave, which is in northwestern Spain. They found it odd that all of them apparently died at the same time. As it turned out, these particular Neanderthals were murdered…and eaten.
I’m creeped out just reading about this stuff, so I can’t even imagine being the scientists who came across these bizarre finds.
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