Archaeological discovery indicates human sacrifice

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Archaeological research of pagan graves in the valley Þegjandadalur in Suður-Þingeyjasýsla county in northeast Iceland support the theory that ritual human sacrifice was practiced during paganism in Iceland. 

A different archaeological site in Iceland [Credit: Bernhild Vogel]

An L-shaped turf wall was discovered in Þegjandadalur, which is believed to have been constructed before Icelanders converted to Christianity in 1000 AD, Morgunblaðið reports. 

In a large hole in the wall fractions of a human skull were found, a jawbone of a cat and various other animal bones, including a sheep jawbone and a several cattle bones. 

In a small grave up against the turf wall bones of a newborn baby in their original resting place were discovered. 

The discovery was reported on in the journal of Urðarbrunnur, the science association at Laugar in the rural district Þingeyjarsveit. 

The association’s chairman, Unnsteinn Ingason, described it as very interesting and strange. “What gives the imagination free rein is the combination of bones,” he said. 

“Remains of bones in a hole are not peculiar as such, it could, for example, have been a garbage hole, but cannibalism was not practiced and cats have never been eaten in Iceland so these bones shouldn’t belong together in a garbage hole,” he reasoned. 

Archaeologist Lilja Palsdottir, who participated in the excavation, said it cannot be confirmed with any certainty that this is evidence of ritual human sacrifice. 

“It is a known phenomenon to place sacrifices in a hole in the wall—the Romans did it when they built houses and often used the bones of newborns,” she said. 

“I wouldn’t say that one can confirm anything about human sacrifices, although the combination of bones is interesting. We don’t know whether it indicates a ritual sacrifice as not much is known about sacrifices in Iceland at this time,” Lilja concluded.  

Source: Iceland Review [November 29, 2011]

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