Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Bizarre Rituals Volume 55 Number 1, January/February 2002
by Eric A. Powell

An ancient cemetery found on the grounds of a prison just south of Columbus has archaeologists from the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) scratching their heads. "No one has seen anything quite like it," says William Pickard, who excavated at the site. "My first thought was, you gotta be kidding." Dating to perhaps 1000 B.C., some of the burials defy easy explanation. Skeletons are missing heads and several heads don't match up with bodies. One pit contains a child's skeleton cradled in two unattached adult arms.

Even more bizarre is the burial OHS archaeologists found that consists of nothing but the lower arm, wrist, and hand bones from an adult and an adolescent laid on either side of a limestone ax, "as if they're passing a baton, a lot like what you would expect in a relay race," says Pickard. Cheryl Johnston, an OHS physical anthropologist, hypothesizes that the missing bones may have been kept as heirlooms and were buried at a later date.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America