Bones of Iron Age Warriors Show Signs of Mutilation

The bones showed signs of being scraped, presumably to remove any leftover flesh. The bones were then sorted and disposed of in a bog. Archaeologists suspect that it was ” a kind of ritual closure of the war.”

A skull of an Iron Age warrior discovered in a bog in Denmark shows signs of battle. Credit: Ejvind Hertz, Skanderborg Museum. Via Live Science

A skull of an Iron Age warrior discovered in a bog in Denmark shows signs of battle.
Credit: Ejvind Hertz, Skanderborg Museum. Via Live Science

via Live Science:

The bones of dozens of Iron Age warriors found in Denmark were collected and ritually mutilated after spending months on the battlefield, archaeologists say.

At least six months after the soldiers died, their bones were collected, scraped of remaining flesh, sorted and dumped in a lake. Some were handled in a truly bizarre manner; for instance, four pelvises were found strung on a stick.

“We think it’s a kind of ritual closure of the war,” said Mads Kähler Holst, project manager at the dig and head of the department of archaeology at the Moesgård Museum in Denmark. The victors seem to have carried out their gruesome work on a spit of land extending into the lake where the bones were dumped, the researchers said.

The site of the boneyard is in East Jutland, in a wetland area known as Alken Enge. Drainage work and peat digging have been turning up ancient human remains in this bog for decades, Holst told Live Science.

All of the evidence points to a straightforward defeat in battle. But the bones also bear strange marks of tampering after the soldiers’ death.

First, many have been gnawed by animals, including large predators such as wolves, dogs and badgers, Holst said. The species present and amount of scavenging suggest the bodies stayed out in the open for at least six months to a year, he said.

After this time, someone collected the corpses and sorted at least some of the bones by type. Marks of cutting and scraping suggest the bones were separated deliberately, and that they had any remaining flesh removed. Animal sacrifices and ceramic pots mixed in with the remains suggest some sort of religious ritual, Holst said. Along with the pelvises strung like beads on a stick, there is evidence that leg bones and thighbones were sorted, too, he said.

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6 Comments on "Bones of Iron Age Warriors Show Signs of Mutilation"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Jul 31, 2014 at 1:45 pm |

    Bizarre… cannibalism doesn’t seem likely given the time frame. Why wait so long after the defeat before tampering with the dead?

    • They probably had other things to do. Or perhaps, they were waiting for an auspicious time when certain stars or planets were in a more favorable alignment.
      I dunno, just throwing that out there.

  2. Jin The Ninja | Jul 31, 2014 at 3:03 pm |

    i disagree with the ‘live science’ framing of this issue as ‘mutilation.’ how is ritual use of bones the same as ‘mutilation?’ bronze age peoples didn’t share our views of death, they didn’t have the same sorts of cultural taboos and prohibitions on corpses (obviously). ‘mutilation’ contains all sorts of negative connotations and moral judgements. maybe it was their way of honouring the dead, using them in religious ritual, or perhaps a hygienic reason? we don’t know. and neither should we burden historical peoples with our moral and religious ideologies.

  3. Oh come on, who hasn’t strung a few pelvises on a stick, especially after a few drinks at the end of another long working week?

  4. Saxon Revolt | Jul 31, 2014 at 9:51 pm |

    In other words we really dont know jackshit about what happened!

  5. BuzzCoastin | Aug 1, 2014 at 12:39 am |

    Howard Carson realized that he had landed in front of a North American burial site. He knew it was tomb because of the sacred seal, which he had read about in a recent article of National Geographic. The seal was obviously placed on the door to protect the tomb and read “Do Not Disturb.” Howard and his companion Harriet were beside themselves with excitement; they assembled a team and began digging. Over the following years many volunteers came to help excavate the Motel of the Mysteries. After the Great Sign was discovered the site became a showplace and pilgrims would come to see the lighting and listen to the music and read “Toot’n’C’mon Motel- Salesmen Welcome- Remote TV”.

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