Ancient skull discovered in eastern Norway

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The Norwegian farmer says the 2,900-year-old skull was found by chance. There is no indication as to the cause of death for now.

Ancient skull discovered in eastern Norway
Archaeologist May-Tove Smiseth holding the skull fragments. It is still unknown 
what the young victim died from [Credit: Kjetil Skare]

“My father was operating a digging machine and I got down into the ditch. A small ball suddenly fell out of the loader bucket right in front of my feet,” Stange municipality-based farmer Halvor Stenberg tells NRK, Tuesday.

What he discovered turned out to be something unexpected. Picking it up, bits of skull started coming away in his hand.

Archaeologists believe that the skull belonged to a man close to 20 years of age. At the same time, how the victim died currently remains a mystery.

“We can’t be 100 per cent sure that he was sacrificed, but we are comparing the remains with other bog bodies found in Northern Europe,” Hedmark County archaeologist Kjetil Skare says to The Foreigner.

“Bog acids in Norway are also of a different type than elsewhere. This means that we usually only find bones, in comparison to soft tissue in other parts. When it comes to other bog bodies, we’ve observed that the person was killed several times (using several methods) – such as by strangulation and slitting the throat.”

Mr Skare and his colleagues also found the remains of a body of a woman a couple of months ago. According to him, this further strengthens the theory that the latest discovery is of a sacrificial victim.

“They started to cremate people when they were buried during the last part of the Bronze Age in Norway (about 1100-500 BC) and in pre-Roman Iron Age times (4th-1st Century BC). It is not likely the remains we have discovered indicate a normal burial, because the body would have lain in a mound,” the expert says.

“We can also rule out the accident theory, because we now have eight sets of remains from those Ages that have been found in Hedmark.”

What could be other causes?

“One possibility is that it was a punishment,” explains Mr Skare. “Roman Emperor Marcus Claudius Tacitus (ca. 200-72 AD) wrote about Northern European tribes around the time of 0 BC having disposed of criminals in open lakes, killing the body in several ways.”

All archaeologists currently have of the latest discovery is the back of the head and some side parts. There is little indicating other damage, but the facial bones are still missing.

What will happen now, then?

“Our job as county archaeologists is just to find and mark the spot where the discovery was made. Oslo Museum of Cultural History staff will conduct more of an extensive dig both here and where the previous discovery was made,” concludes Mr Skare, adding that there is extremely little research that has been published about bog bodies.

Author: Michael Sandelson | Source: The Foreigner [June 10, 2014]

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