Excavations in a 6,000-year-old cemetery in Transylvania uncovered the remains of people buried with urns placed on their heads or feet, Romanian media reports Information about Gherla.
Archaeologists conducted excavations ahead of a planned construction project in the town of Cluj-Napoca in the north-west of Romania. So far, the team has not been able to determine what the ballot boxes once contained, but as Ben Turner reports for Live Science, it is likely that they contained food or drink intended to feed the dead in the afterlife.
In addition to the graves, researchers found a pit used to store food which was then reused as a landfill. An animal skull, probably that of a cow, as well as ceramic fragments that may offer clues to the colony’s pottery-making technology, have been discovered nearby.
The remains of wooden walls found at the site suggest that the inhabitants of the Neolithic settlement fortified their homes, with the wealthier living in the better fortified areas.
Next, the researchers hope to determine whether the skeletons were male or female, and gather information about the deceased’s state of health. They will also attempt to determine the original contents of the vases, which were likely included in the graves as funeral offerings.
“Their story must be told, revealed, through such excavations”, explains Paul Pupeză, archaeologist at the National History Museum of Transylvania. Information about Gherla, from a translation by Republic of the worldis Ajeet Kumar. “As we learn more about them, we will know more about ourselves. We are the first to get our hands on these fragments, after thousands of years.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, agriculture spread across southeastern Europe in the seventh millennium BCE, triggering the establishment of permanent settlements and the rise of pottery. By the time the Transylvanian colony emerged, the inhabitants of the region had developed the metallurgy of copper and gold.
The 10,000 square foot excavated area contains a later Iron Age Celtic settlement built during the Stone Age between 2,000 and 2,200 years ago. The burial customs of the Celts were very different from those of the Neolithic people, writes Stacy Liberatore for the Daily mail. They often cremated their dead and buried them in urns next to grave goods, some of which were made of iron.
As Owen Jarus reported for Live Science in 2014, the term “Celts” refers to a diverse group of ancient peoples with many languages and political groupings, including the Gauls of present-day France and the Celtiberians of Iberia. They lived across much of mainland Europe – including Romania, then part of a region known as Dacia – and spread as far east as Turkey.
Researchers transport the finds to the Natural History Museum, where they will be analyzed, restored and preserved. The museum could possibly present to the public some of the artifacts discovered in the colony.
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