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Archaeology, forensics and the death of a child in Late Neolithic Sweden

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2015

Anne Carlie
Affiliation:
Swedish National Heritage Board, Archaeological Department, Odlarevägen 5, Lund 226 60, Sweden (Email: anne.carlie@raa.se; caroline.ahlstrom.arcini@raa.se)
Caroline Arcini
Affiliation:
Swedish National Heritage Board, Archaeological Department, Odlarevägen 5, Lund 226 60, Sweden (Email: anne.carlie@raa.se; caroline.ahlstrom.arcini@raa.se)
Henrik Druid
Affiliation:
Department of Oncology and Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, Solnavägen 1, Stockholm 171 76, Sweden (Email: henrik.druid@ki.se)
Jan Risberg
Affiliation:
Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Svante Arrhenius väg 8, Stockholm 106 91, Sweden (Email: jan.risberg@geo.su.se)

Abstract

The discovery of a child’s skeleton in a Late Neolithic well in Sweden raises again the issue of watery rituals and human sacrifice in prehistoric societies. Analysis of diatoms from the right humerus and from the surrounding sediment indicated that the child died by drowning and had not simply been disposed of in the well after death. The scenarios of accidental drowning and murder are examined to account for this discovery. The preferred hypothesis, based on a comparative study of similar finds from north-western Europe, interprets this instead as a ritual sacrifice. The use of diatom analysis to establish drowning as the cause of death adds a new weapon into the armoury of forensic archaeology.

Type
Research
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2014

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