Germany's stone age cannibalism

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The German city of Speyer, in Rheinland-Palatinate, boasts some macabre relics. A collection of skulls, shin bones and vertebrae might not seem unusual in an archaeology museum, but these particular remains are special. They all show signs of having been cut, scraped or broken, indicating that their owners were cannibalised."These grooves, running from the base of the nose to the back of the neck, or here on the temples, show, beyond all possible doubt, that the flesh was torn off," says Andrea Zeeb-Lanz, the regional head of archaeology, holding up a skull.

All these human remains were found at the stone-age site at Herxheim, near Speyer. About 7,000 years ago farmers, who grew wheat and barley, raised pigs, sheep and cattle, settled here, building a village of four to 12 houses, the post holes of which have survived. At the time the first farmer-stockherders were moving into Europe, supplanting their hunter-gatherer predecessors. The Herxheim settlers came from the north (between 5,400 and 4,950 BCE) and belonged to the Linear Pottery culture.

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