Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor
WOMEN are likely to have been the prize which sparked the massacre of a prehistoric community, North East research suggests.
Examination of a mass grave of skeletons by Durham University-led researchers indicates that neighbouring tribes were prepared to brutally kill their male rivals to secure their women.
Lead researcher Dr Alex Bentley from Durham University's Anthropology Department said yesterday that women would probably have been seen as a valuable resource for sexual and reproductive reasons and for their skills which would help ensure the survival of a community. "You have to have women if your group is going to reproduce," he said.
The research focused on 34 skeletons found buried in the village of Talheim, near Stuttgart in Germany.
Genetic evidence from the skeletons' teeth suggests they were of people killed in an attack between rival tribes around 7,000 years ago.
The researchers found that, although there were adult females among two other "outsider" groups in the grave, within the local group of skeletons there were men and children only.
They concluded the absence of local females indicates that they were spared execution and captured instead and may have indeed been the primary motivation for the attack. The deliberateness of the prehistoric attack was first realised when experts determined that the majority had been killed by a blow to the left side of the head, suggesting the victims were bound and killed, probably with a stone axe. Others may have been killed from arrow-wounds.
Dr Bentley said: "It seems this community was specifically targeted, as could happen in a cycle of revenge between rival groups. Although resources and population were undoubtedly factors in central Europe around that time, women appear to be the immediate reason for the attack. …