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Unusual burial from an early Neolithic site of the lengyel culture in central Poland: Punishment, violence or mortuary behaviour?

Authors

  • W. Lorkiewicz

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    1. Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Biology, University of Łódź, 90-237 Łódź, Poland
    • Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Łódź, 12/16 Banacha St., 90-237 Łódź, Poland.
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    • Chair of Anthropology.


Abstract

During excavations at the Early Neolithic site of the Brześć Kujawski Group of the Lengyel Culture in Osłonki (central Poland), an atypical burial of an adult male was discovered. The individual's skeleton revealed traces of several perimortem injuries: both broken shins (the right shin with two fractures), a large fracture to the frontal bone and about 25 cut marks made with a flint blade in the parietal-occipital region of the cranium on the left side. The arrangement of the fractured parts of the lower limbs might suggest that the injuries were intentionally exposed. Due to the relatively rich grave goods, it seems unlikely that the buried person was rejected by the community and thus killed or stigmatized by mutilation of the cadaver. The way the cuts were made is different from the cases of scalping or severing muscles in cannibalistic or mortuary practices known from the literature. This burial probably reflects some special funerary rite, which is now difficult to reconstruct or interpret. It is both possible that the observed injuries resulted from wounds that led to the individual's death (perhaps in circumstances that motivated the other special features of the burial) or that they were inflicted on the dead body. Taking into account the probable practices of dismembering of the dead body or human sacrifice found in the later Neolithic period in Poland, all of these possibilities may be considered with respect to this burial. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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