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Neolithic burial chamber discovered in northeastern France

A team from Inrap announced that it has discovered a collective underground burial ground or hypogeum dating to the late Neolithic period in Saint-Memmie, a town in the Marne department of northeastern France, in which about fifty deceased people were buried, during excavations currently being carried out before the creation of a supermarket.

Neolithic burial chamber discovered in northeastern France
First layer of skeletons in the burial chamber
[Credit: INRAP]

"This hypogeum dating from 3500 to 3000 years BC consists of an entrance opening onto a 3.80 metre long sloping corridor that leads to an antechamber allowing access to the 6 square metre burial chamber through a narrow crawl space," says the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) in a statement.

Neolithic burial chamber discovered in northeastern France
First bones emerge in hypogeum excavation
[Credit: INRAP]
"As soon as the first level was searched, anthropologists noticed that the burial chamber included men and women as well as children and adolescents," explains the institute.

Neolithic burial chamber discovered in northeastern France
Aerial view showing the architecture of hypogeum
[Credit: Patrick Huard, INRAP]

"At this stage, the excavation has revealed several levels of dense and highly intertwined bones. More than forty skulls and about 2,000 bones have already been found in this collective tomb. Some jewellery elements have also been found on the deceased: necklace beads, perforated animal canines used as pendants, flint tools."

Neolithic burial chamber discovered in northeastern France
Second layer of skeletal remains [Credit: Estelle Benistant, INRAP]
The excavation, which is ongoing until the end of November, "will make it possible to refine our knowledge of this funeral practice and the architecture of this type of burial," says Inrap.

Neolithic burial chamber discovered in northeastern France
Limestone beads from necklace [Credit: Simon Loiseau, INRAP]

Anthropological analysis of the bones will hopefully give a more precise idea of the number of people buried here, their age at time of death, sex, health, and possible familial relationships.

No less than 160 hypogea have been identified in Marne over the centuries, particularly in Champagne, between Epernay and the marshes of Saint-Gond near Sezanne. But only five of these monuments have been properly documented, the others having been visited and emptied without archaeological study. The discovery at Saint-Memmie is therefore all the more exceptional.

Source: France Bleu [trsl. TANN, November 24, 2019]


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