To the grand surprise of the investigators, when they removed that apparently normal and unremarkable rock, they found the remains of some three hundred persons. It was a communal grave from the end of the Neolithic, some 5,000 years ago. The bones are in a very good state of conservation, because the rock covering them most probably having protected them from the outside elements.
In Europe there are few archaeological sites containing such a large quantity of bones. Thus, the remains found at San Juan ante Portam Latinam are a real treasure for the investigators. Hundreds of bones were uncovered: crania, vertebrae, hips bones, tibias and so on. There were so many bones, in fact, that it did not prove easy to distinguish which bones belonged to which individual. The bones had to be sketched one by one and closely observed over long periods to come to the realisation that the bodies had not been laid out longitudinally. They lay in strange postures. The bodies were completely doubled up, each with their arms circling their legs. According to the experts, these curious postures may be due to the fact that the bodies had been tied up in order to transfer or transport them to the burial ground.
The bones belong to people of all ages, the newly born, young people and the elderly. There could be no better sample of the populations of the period.
Aitziber Agirre | Basque research
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