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Uncanny Archaeology of Halloween

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Author Topic: Uncanny Archaeology of Halloween  (Read 1403 times)
Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #30 on: October 30, 2009, 02:13:58 am »

Excavation in area B, in the western part of the lower town, revealed clusters of human bones from bodies that had been dismembered. The remains, co-mingled with animal bones, were then carefully rearranged, sometimes in symmetrical patterns, on an outside ground surface with shallow depressions. A small number of sherds on this surface indicate that the area was in use during Hellenistic times, and two distinctive ones place it within the third century B.C. Again, only silt eroded from the fortification walls covers the bone deposits. Bone cluster 1 is the most complex. At the top was the skeleton of a young woman aged 16-21, but where her skull should be there was instead a lower jaw of an adult male over 50, the only bone of this person in the deposit. Beneath the young woman was a 35-45-year-old female whose legs had been detached and placed on either side of her torso. When we excavated bone cluster 1 we thought that the lower woman had been strangled because of the distorted angle within the spinal column. Analysis of the bones showed that we were dead wrong. Instead, the skull and first five vertebrae of the young woman had been placed at the top of the older woman's spinal column. Decapitation is obvious. There are no cut marks on the human bone, but placed around the young woman's feet were animal bones bearing cut marks from butchery. The skull of a 20-35-year-old male was found in bone cluster 2. Decayed wood in the opening at the skull's base through which the spinal cord passes suggests that this individual's severed head had been mounted on a wooden stake for display, a practice documented in Celtic Europe. Scattered around the skull were fragments of an ass's lower jaw, a pig's lower jaw, a cow's upper jaw, two cow pelvic bones, and the foreleg of a dog.
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #31 on: October 30, 2009, 02:14:14 am »

In bone cluster 4, the skull of a teenager 12-17 years old was carefully placed above a dog skull, pelvic bone, and leg bones. At the bottom of this pile, which rested within a shallow depression, was a human pelvic bone from a 20-35-year-old male. Heavily weathered, it probably lay on the surface for some time before the rest of the bones were placed above it. The teenager, whose sex could not be determined with certainty, had been decapitated; this is clear not only from the fact that the first two vertebrae were still in place beneath the skull, but from damage to the vertebrae consistent with a butchery pattern found in animals, in which the neck is weakened by cutting to the point where it can be forcibly snapped to crack through the bone and remove the head.
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #32 on: October 30, 2009, 02:14:29 am »

The largest deposit, bone cluster 3, consists of a few human bones, and over 2,100 animal bones and fragments. Three humans are present. A 4-8-year-old child is represented by a lower jaw and some cranial fragments. A fragmentary right pelvic bone came from an adult female aged 35-39, and a pair of pelvic bones represent an adult male aged 40-44. A sacrum (the fused vertebrae forming the back of the pelvis) and several long bones could belong to either adult. The human bones are cracked from weathering and the pelvic bones were gnawed by carnivores--signs that they were exposed on the surface for some time. More startling is a distinctive "spiral fracture" on a femur (probably from the male), which can only happen if the bone is fresh when broken. The shaft of the femur is one of the strongest parts of the skeleton, and to fracture it requires great force; today this type of fracture in an adult most commonly occurs from high-energy collisions such as a car crash. In this case, there is little that could have generated the twisting force great enough to cause such a spiral fracture except a fall from a great height or a direct blow near the time of death. Given that the bone is separated from the rest of the skeleton, a blow seems more likely, and this may be evidence of the offering of marrow to the spirits, a Celtic practice documented by textual evidence from Europe.
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #33 on: October 30, 2009, 02:14:41 am »

The distribution of body parts represented in bone cluster 3 is revealing. For humans, cranial fragments and pelvic bones predominate. Marks produced by carnivore teeth suggest that the pelvic bones bore meat when they were thrown into this bone pile. A similar pattern is found for horse and pig, both of which had symbolic value for Celtic groups, and in this case they are treated like people rather than like other animals. Bones of domestic cattle, sheep, goats, and ass are far more common, and the distribution of their body parts is more "normal" for animals used as food. If bone cluster 3 represents the remains of a feast, what happened to the three humans in this deposit? A well-known image from the Gundestrop cauldron, a large silver vessel found in Denmark that depicts deities and people and is usually attributed to the Celts, may provide an answer. One of the figures, twice the size of the horsemen and foot soldiers arrayed before him, is dunking a human into a large pot!
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #34 on: October 30, 2009, 02:14:52 am »

We might also use European parallels to speculate about the timing of the feast. Based on their age at death, the animals in this large deposit were slaughtered in the fall. And it was in the fall that Celtic groups in Europe celebrated Samhain. Around November 1 each year, herds of domestic animals were brought from their summer pasture and culled, the herdsmen slaughtering weak animals that could not survive the winter. Celts believed that during Samhain the barriers between the natural world and the spirits broke down, and the veil between the present and the future was most transparent. Rituals were performed to foretell future events through various forms of divination, and it may not be too far a stretch to associate bone cluster 3 with this Celtic festival, which we still celebrate as Halloween.
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #35 on: October 30, 2009, 02:14:59 am »

The human and animal remains in area B document the Galatians' display and manipulation of human heads, a trait well known from texts and archaeological finds in Europe. While these heads are presumably trophies collected by the warrior elite, the importance of another male role, herding, is suggested by the animal remains in bone cluster 3. Both male and female victims, however, played an important role in the rituals conducted.
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« Reply #36 on: October 30, 2009, 02:15:07 am »

Our view of Galatian Gordion has changed considerably over the past few decades. The picture of a simple farming community has been replaced by one of a prosperous town. But when the Galatians settled permanently in central Anatolia, they did not simply shed their old ways and adopt those of the native peoples (presumably Hellenized Phrygians in the case of Gordion), as our discoveries of sacrificial ritual involving humans as well as animals have shown. Major questions remain. For example, was the Galatian presence limited to a religious and military elite or did they form a larger segment of the population that gradually integrated with the local peoples? Our next step will be to compare the material culture of the pre-Galatian and Galatian settlements. If we can then distinguish immigrant from indigenous households, we should be able to discuss issues of ethnicity as well as the ways in which a farming and herding people adapt and prosper in an environment very different from that of their homeland.
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« Reply #37 on: October 30, 2009, 02:15:24 am »

Jeremiah R. Dandoy has been the Gordion Project's zooarchaeologist since 1994. Page Selinsky is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on skeletal biology and molecular anthropology. Mary M. Voigt is Chancellor Professor of Anthro-pology at the College of William and Mary. In 1987 she became associate director of the Gordion Project in charge of excavation and survey. The authors would like to thank G. Kenneth Sams, director of the Gordion Project; T. Cuyler Young, Jr., head of the Royal Ontario Museum team; and Keith DeVries.

http://www.archaeology.org/0201/etc/celtic.html
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #38 on: October 30, 2009, 02:15:47 am »




A young woman's skull and neck vertebrae are juxtaposed with an older woman's upper back vertebrae, which lie above an animal's jaw. The younger woman's hip bones lie atop the older woman's ribs, also shown in photos 8 and 9 further down the page. (Mary M. Voigt/Gordion Project)
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« Reply #39 on: October 30, 2009, 02:16:11 am »



This skull of a teenager (12-17 years old) was carefully placed alongside the skull, pelvis, and upper leg bone of a dog. Beneath these was the pelvic bone of another person. (Mary M. Voigt/Gordion Project)
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #40 on: October 30, 2009, 02:16:33 am »



Gordion excavation areas (Sondra Jarvis and Carrie Alblinger/Gordion Project)
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« Reply #41 on: October 30, 2009, 02:16:58 am »



Double-headed figure from Gordion resembles more sophisticated ones from Europe. (Mary M. Voigt/Gordion Project)
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« Reply #42 on: October 30, 2009, 02:17:20 am »



In 189 B.C., Roman troops pillaging Gordion left smashed pottery strewn across floors, including a painted bowl reconstructed from the debris. (Mary M. Voigt/Gordion Project)
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #43 on: October 30, 2009, 02:17:33 am »

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« Reply #44 on: October 30, 2009, 02:17:54 am »




The uppermost of these two women had suffered blows to the head and a broken neck; large grinding stones had been placed on top of the lower woman. (Mary M. Voigt / Sondra Jarvis and Carrie Alblinger, Gordion Project)
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