Human Sacrifice May Have Taken Place at the 'German Stonehenge'

A 2016 reconstruction of Pӧmmelte, a henge-like structure in eastern Germany that was originally constructed about 4300 years ago.
A 2016 reconstruction of Pӧmmelte, a henge-like structure in eastern Germany that was originally constructed about 4300 years ago.
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An ancient circular wooden monument in Germany—similar in age and appearance to England's Stonehenge—may have been a site for human sacrifice.

According to Smithsonian, German archaeologists André Spatzier and François Bertemes excavated a variety of Neolithic and Bronze Age antiquities dating back to the period between 2321 and 2211 BCE from Pӧmmelte, the "German Stonehenge" located in northeastern Germany. Among the broken drinking vessels, stone axes, and animal bones they expected to see (such relics were distinctive of the era’s Bell Beaker culture), researchers also found the dismembered bodies of 10 women and children.

Four bodies showed signs of skull trauma and rib fractures that occurred before death, researchers write in the journal Antiquity. The skeleton of a teenager had tied hands. All 10 bodies were found in positions suggesting they were thrown into the burial shafts.

“It remains unclear whether these individuals were ritually killed or if their death resulted from intergroup conflict, such as raiding,” researchers say in the study.

Those 10 bodies stood in contrast to the nearby graves of 13 men (all between 17 and 30 years old at death), which were buried in a respectful manner. The gender-specific violence and burial differences shown at Pӧmmelte make ritual sacrifice a likely scenario, researchers say.

Spatzier told Live Science that Pӧmmelte was in use for about 300 years before it was destroyed—likely intentionally—around 2050 BCE. The site was discovered in 1991 when aerial photographers spotted it shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

[h/t Smithsonian]

A ‘Lost’ Viking Graveyard Was Discovered in Norway

LMGPhotos/iStock via Getty Images
LMGPhotos/iStock via Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, Scandinavian Vikings didn't send their dead out to sea on flaming ships. When someone died, they buried the body in the ground just as people have been doing across cultures for centuries. A recent discovery sheds new light on the Vikings' version of the practice. As Atlas Obscura reports, an entire Viking graveyard has been unearthed by archaeologists in Norway.

A survey leading up to a highway expansion revealed the site in Vinjeøra, a town located next to an ancient Viking farm. The graveyard contains several boat burials. While there's no evidence of Vikings ever conducting burials at sea in Scandinavia, they did sometimes load their cadavers onto boats—the boats just happened stay on land and act as coffins rather than watery graves. This may have contributed to the modern Viking funeral myth.

Among the boats, the dig team also found the remains of 20 burial mounds, including one that was especially noteworthy. The mound—which had been leveled by centuries of agriculture—once covered a mortuary house where a body was laid to rest. Archaeologists say the size and elaborate nature of the grave indicate that someone important, such as a chieftain or war hero, was buried there.

The house itself is no longer around for researchers to study, but it did leave behind a rectangular footprint, and a few foundational stones as evidence of its existence. By studying the grave mounds and boats, the archaeologists hope to learn more about a group of people that disappeared without leaving behind any written records of their lives.

Viking grave sites don't just tell us who the Vikings revered and how they treated their dead—they can also tell us what they did for fun. Ancient burial boats have revealed that some Vikings were buried with board games.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Civil War Cannonballs Found on South Carolina Beach in Aftermath of Hurricane Dorian

ABDESIGN/iStock via Getty Images
ABDESIGN/iStock via Getty Images

Hurricane Dorian skimmed the United States' East Coast last week, creating a trail of damage residents are still dealing with. But it wasn't just trash and debris the storm surges left behind: As WCSC reports, two cannonballs dating back to the Civil War were discovered on Folly Beach in South Carolina in the aftermath of the storm.

Aaron Lattin and his girlfriend Alba were walking on the beach on September 6 when they saw what looked like rocks nestled in the sand. As they examined them more closely, they realized they had found something much more special. The weathered objects were actually cannonballs that have likely been buried in the area for more than 150 years.

Incredibly, this isn't the first time Civil War cannonballs have been discovered on Folly Beach following a hurricane: In 2016, Hurricane Matthew unearthed 16 of them. Folly Island was used as a Union base a century and a half ago, and items leftover from the artillery battery built there are still scattered around the shoreline. The couple behind this latest discovery believes there are more waiting to be found.

Old cannonballs may look like cool artifacts to treasure hunters, but they should still be treated with caution. Police and bombs disposal technicians were called to the scene at Folly Beach to confirm the cannonballs were no longer functional.

[h/t WCSC]

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