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Croatia ‘death pit’ was likely site of ancient massacre

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Fresh analysis of a 6,200-year-old mass grave suggests all 41 people inside were murdered by members of their own community in a “random” massacre.

The ancient grave was found in Croatia and a new study has revealed victims were of all ages from around two to 50 years old.

According to the study, many of the victims were killed with strikes to the skull from behind.

It’s unlikely a lot of them knew they were about to be attacked as there’s not a lot of skeletal evidence to suggest attempts at defence.

The grave was accidentally discovered in 2007 by a man trying to dig garage foundations in a small village in Potočani, Croatia.

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Heavy rain helped to uncover the grave that had been hidden for thousands of years.

Exactly what happened to the victims has remained a mystery ever since.

Genetic evidence does suggest the victims were from the local area and had common ancestry so weren’t new or intruding at the time.

The bones date back to the time of the Copper Age Lasinja culture.

It’s thought the victims lived amongst a large cattle farming community that may have had a population of up to 75,000 and remained in the area for centuries.

The grave was discovered in 2007 in a small village in Potočani, Croatia.
The grave was discovered in 2007 in a small village in Potočani, Croatia.
M. Novak/PLOS ONE

Archaeologists inspected the grave in 2007 but a new study led by the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb has tried to provide more answers.

The burial pit was 6.5 feet wide and 3 feet deep.

The bodies were entangled on top of each other like they’d all been thrown in at random.

Radiocarbon dating of teeth, bones and some pottery revealed the burial likely happened around 4200 BC.

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Archaeologists found evidence of traumatic injuries to the back of the skull and some skulls had puncture wounds.
Most victims found in the grave had traumatic injuries to the back of the skull and some had skull puncture wounds.
M. Novak/PLOS ONE

About half of the victims were children aged from two to 17 and the other 20 were adults aged from 18 to 50 years old.

There were 21 male skeletons and 20 female.

Lead study author Mario Novak and colleagues took DNA samples and analysed 38 of the skeletons.

Most had traumatic injuries to the back of the skull and some had skull puncture wounds.

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