11 july 2014
Children’s skulls found at the edges of Bronze Age settlements may have been a gruesome gift for the local lake gods.
The children’s skulls were discovered encircling the perimeter of ancient villages around lakes in Switzerland and Germany. Some had suffered ax blows and other head traumas.
Though the children probably weren’t human sacrifices killed to appease the gods, they may have been offered after death as gifts to ward off flooding, said study co-author Benjamin Jennings, an archaeologist at Basel University in Switzerland.
Since the 1920s, archaeologists have known that ancient villages dotted Alpine lakes in Switzerland and Germany. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that many of the sites were excavated, yielding hunting tools, animal bones, ceramics, jewelry, watchtowers, gates and more than 160 dwellings. Tree rings on wooden artifacts from the sites suggest people lived there at different periods between 3,800 and 2,600 years ago.