The site of Obernai in France was occupied by one people or another for the last 6000 years. Now, a series of graves found there date from 4000 years ago to 2000 years ago. These 38 tombs span a fantastic portion of human history: from the Stone Age to the Dark Age.
LiveScience reports that the tombs were first discovered in 2011 during an excavation that was leading to a large industrial project, but archaeologist Philippe Lefranc went back to do more detailed excavations this year.
The tombs were excellently preserved by the surrounding limestone. Lefranc said the bodies were discovered on their back, heads pointing west, with legs outstretched. Abundant flint tools and artifacts were found, among them some stone vases, and a mother-of-pearl elbow bracelet. Lefranc believes these artifacts to be attributed to the Grossgartach culture, a Neolithic animal-herding people that lived there in longhouses around 4750 BCE.
The archaeological remnants of a Gallic farm were also found just north of the Neolithic tombs. Some amphorae, coins, pottery, and glass ornaments indicate the Gauls who lived there were quite wealthy. The Gallic culture probably lived there between 150 and 130 BC, and Gauls extended their encampment south to what archaeologists believe was a religious sanctuary. To make that conclusion, they extrapolated from the human skull fragments, weapons, children, and animals buried throughout that particular site.
The conehead skull, in particular, appears to have come from a people entirely different from the previous two, as indicated by the deformity. Four graves were found that dated to about 1650 years ago; the richest of the decedents was a woman who wore a series of objects on her belt that are similar to those used by the Alan-Samartian populations from the Caucasus region. The conehead skull belonged to this particular woman.
In an email to LiveScience, Lefranc said “The deformation of the skull with the help of bandages (narrow strips of cloth) and small boards is a practice coming from central Asia. It was popularized by the Huns and adopted by many German people.”
Graves have been found containing similar skulls in Northern Gaul, Germany, and Eastern Europe, usually accompanied by a lot of grave goods. Archaeologists reasonably concluded that these individuals were eastern dignitaries to the Roman Empire who were incorporated into the legion during the great migrations.
[Image via Inrap]