Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Neolithic Nightmare Volume 56 Number 5, September/October 2003
by Kristin M. Romey


A battered skull of one of the casualties of the battle at Asparn (Courtesy Maria Teschler-Nicolas) [LARGER IMAGE]

Archaeologists had long suspected that something horrible had happened 7,000 years ago at the Austrian site of Asparn, where more than 100 skeletons, some showing evidence of extreme violence, were found in close proximity to one another. The remains were so poorly preserved, however, that scholars were unable to determine what exactly happened at the Neolithic village. Thanks to strontium isotope analysis, a team of Viennese chemists has now solved the mystery. Strontium, an element that builds up in the bones and tooth enamel as food is digested, can provide clues to a person's geographical origins. From its analysis, the Viennese team was able to distinguish the remains of unfortunate local villagers from those of outsiders who had apparently attacked the settlement.

© 2003 by the Archaeological Institute of America