Oliver Thewalt

    Oliver Thewalt

    Theoretical Physics | Quantum Biology | Dark Matter Research Cluster

    The massacre mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten reveals new insights into collective violence in Early Neolithic Central Europe



    The Early Neolithic massacre-related mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten presented here provides new data and insights for the ongoing discussions of prehistoric warfare in Central Europe. Although several characteristics gleaned from the analysis of the human skeletal remains support and strengthen previous hypotheses based on the few known massacre sites of this time, a pattern of intentional mutilation of violence victims identified here is of special significance. Adding another key site to the evidence for Early Neolithic warfare generally allows more robust and reliable reconstructions of the possible reasons for the extent and frequency of outbreaks of lethal mass violence and the general impact these events had on shaping the further development of the Central European Neolithic.


    Examples of cranial trauma identified in the mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten


    Conflict and warfare are central but also disputed themes in discussions about the European Neolithic. Although a few recent population studies provide broad overviews, only a very limited number of currently known key sites provide precise insights into moments of extreme and mass violence and their impact on Neolithic societies. The massacre sites of Talheim, Germany, and Asparn/Schletz, Austria, have long been the focal points around which hypotheses concerning a final lethal crisis of the first Central European farmers of the Early Neolithic Linearbandkeramik Culture (LBK) have concentrated. With the recently examined LBK mass grave site of Schöneck-Kilianstädten, Germany, we present new conclusive and indisputable evidence for another massacre, adding new data to the discussion of LBK violence patterns. At least 26 individuals were violently killed by blunt force and arrow injuries before being deposited in a commingled mass grave. Although the absence and possible abduction of younger females has been suggested for other sites previously, a new violence-related pattern was identified here: the intentional and systematic breaking of lower limbs. The abundance of the identified perimortem fractures clearly indicates torture and/or mutilation of the victims. The new evidence presented here for unequivocal lethal violence on a large scale is put into perspective for the Early Neolithic of Central Europe and, in conjunction with previous results, indicates that massacres of entire communities were not isolated occurrences but rather were frequent features of the last phases of the LBK.