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Neolithic mass grave found in central France

Between July and November 2020, archaeologists from Inrap and Bourges Plus uncovered a Late Neolithic (3100 - 2900 BC) mass grave at the site of the future route of the Bourges bypass at Saint-Doulchard (Cher) in central France. It is the first collective burial from this period found in the region. This vast area of 1.5 ha also yielded other remains, from the Mesolithic to the Medieval period.

Neolithic mass grave found in central France
Skeletal remains in Late Neolithic mass grave
[Credit: Laure Pecqueur, Inrap]

The burial site consists of a rectangular pit, 4 metres long and 1.75 metres wide. Some type of wooden structure, which has since disappeared, was evidently installed in order to facilitate access to the burial cavity and to allow the placement of new bodies. This can be seen in the rectangular outline around the bones. Similarly, the varied arrangement of the bodies within the burial chamber suggests that access was gained from above the pit. 

The burial cavity yielded numerous skeletons that were tightly interwoven within a single burial layer. It is the result of the accumulation of bodies due to successive additions throughout the use of the sepulchre.

Neolithic mass grave found in central France
Collapsed stone cover of collective burial
[Credit: Laure Pecqueur, Inrap]

Observations made in the field provide an understanding of the modalities and chronology of deposition of the bodies. The skeletons have most often retained their anatomical integrity, indicating little reworking. There is little grouping of bones, a sign that the burial cavity was not too crowded.

The grave contained about forty individuals. The burial contained men, women, children and teenagers, with no particular space devoted to any one category of individual. The poor preservation of the bones limits biological observations on the skeletons. Analyses, particularly of DNA, will enrich the information on this population group.  

Neolithic mass grave found in central France
Detail of interwoven skeletal remains [Credit: Laure Pecqueur, Inrap]

The few finds are mainly flints, poorly preserved and scattered fragments of ceramics and a few bone or antler items.

This burial, new for Bourges and its region, seems to be linked to the phenomenon of collective burial, well known in the Parisian Basin, which became widespread from the middle of the 4th millennium BC.

Source: Inrap [trsl. TANN; Original article published January 29, 2021]

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1 comment :

  1. Are these sites or can these sites be tested for disease remnants? Age range and burial method hints at epidemic burial.


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