Archaeologists recently made a chilling discovery in Slovakia. In the west of the country, many headless skeletons dating from the Neolithic Age have been found.
Archaeologists researching early Neolithic settlements in western Slovakia came across a mass grave dating back to about 7,000 years ago. According to the first examinations, there are skeletons belonging to 35 different individuals in the tomb.
The most chilling thing about the skeletons found near a town called Vráble is that almost all of them are headless. All but one of the 35 skeletons found in the tomb do not have a skull. The only skeleton with a skull belongs to a small child.
Archaeologists and anthropologists who made the discovery think that most of the skeletons in the tomb belong to young people between the ages of 18-35. However, the exact ages of the skeletons will be determined after anthropological analysis.
The position of the skeletons in the tomb indicates that the bodies were randomly thrown into the ditch.
Similar headless skeletons were found near Vráble in research conducted by the Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel and the Slovak Academy of Sciences – Institute of Archeology.1
Three Neighboring Settlements
There are three neighboring settlements near the mass grave where the skeletons were discovered. One of these three settlements, which could be considered quite large for that period (Linear Pottery Culture, 5250-4950 BC), was surrounded by a ditch.
The discovery of skeletons in the ditch brings to mind many possibilities. For Professor Martin Furholt, it’s like a criminal investigation that every detail has to be thoroughly evaluated.
Martin Furholt, professor of protohistoric archeology and social archeology, says this ditch could be a burial place for social outcasts, such as criminals. The decapitation of the skeletons supports this hypothesis. However, Furholt points out that these corpses buried in the ditch could be a message to the gods or nature.
Professor Martin Furholt told ULUKAYIN in an online correspondence dated October 6, 2022, regarding the discoveries:
“We do not yet know exactly how those heads were removed, wether peri- or post-mortem. It seems to be very regular (uppermost vertebrae always missing), but we have so far not found any cut marks. We are thus waiting with more specific interpretations.”
Dr. Katharina Fuchs, from the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at Kiel University, said the following in the same correspondence:
“We do not have any evidence for a trophy-related ritual or even a conflict-related scenario for Vráble. Further and more detailed investigations of the bones are required to explore possible scenarios when and how the heads were removed (e.g., some still have their first cervical vertebrae, and we are not yet sure about cut marks; a violent “decapitation” is thus nothing to write about now). We’re as well not sure about the exact age profile of the dead.”
Katharina Fuchs stated that tempting “dramatic” statements should be avoided in the media and continued as follows:
“Certain is: The skulls seemed to have a very specific meaning to this community, as my colleague Martin already mentioned (many options! magical, ritual, personal…). And this, in addition to the number of individuals, makes the finding so very exceptional in the Linear Pottery Culture context.“
What could be the reason why no one’s head was found among the finds in the tomb, except for a small child? Why didn’t they remove the child’s head? Could those in the tomb be adult individuals who committed crimes? Zuzana Hukeľová, an osteoarchaeologist from the Institute of Archeology at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, answered these questions:
“The finding of a child is questionable and we do not know the answer for it. To answer the question, we would need to understand why the adult individuals were placed into the pit. The child could have been just added into the pit without any specific reason. It may have been interred there because it did not represent a valid member of the society (still too young) so its skull was not as “precious” trophy as the one of an adult, who knows?
In the Neolithic, it is very difficult if not impossible to say who was a “criminal” (and what deeds were considered as crimes). The headless people buried in the trench may have been those originally living in the settlement, or the ones from the other two settlements, or total foreigners. At the field, we did not notice any apparent trace of violence, but that does not mean those individuals had not died from violent death, as not all violent encounters leave traces on bones (e.g. drowning, stabbing to the stomach, choking, poisoning…). So without a detailed analysis it is very complicated to say what were the reasons for the death of the people buried in Vráble. There are hundreds of scenarios that are possible and we need to be very careful to come with the most probable one.”
Among the human remains previously discovered near Vráble were many headless skeletons.2
- “Das Rätsel der kopflosen Skelette“, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, 04.04.2022
- “The Burials and Human Remains from the LBK and Želiezovce Settlement Site of Vráble“, Archaeology In The Žitava Valley I, Nils Müller-Scheeßel & Zuzana Hukeľová, Sidestone Press, 2020