Victims of a tsunami or human sacrifice: what happened to 20 Celts 2,000 years ago?

By Jurassic JennJun 22, 2024 08:30 AMScience
Share:
Victims of a tsunami or human sacrifice: what happened to 20 Celts 2,000 years ago?
Victims of a tsunami or human sacrifice: what happened to 20 Celts 2,000 years ago?. Source: owlcation.com

The mysterious discovery of human remains near the ruins of a bridge in Switzerland's Three Lakes region has sparked curiosity among archaeologists. In an effort to gain insights into the region's Celtic heritage, experts have embarked on an extensive study to unravel the story behind the finding. The recovered items include a mix of bones, skulls, and wooden beams, found on the riverbed during the Thielle Canal renovations in 1965.

Collaborating on an international project led by the University of Bern and the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies in Bolzano, researchers from various disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, biochemistry, thanatology, and genetics have meticulously investigated the case. Their comprehensive study findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The primary focus of this project is to shed light on the Celts and improve our understanding of their presence in Switzerland and northern Italy. While much of Celtic culture is documented orally and limited written sources exist, most of the available information comes from Julius Caesar's accounts, which are biased as a military adversary.

With an aim to amplify the voices of the untold from the archaeological findings, Zita Laffranchi, a postdoctoral fellow from the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, together with her team, embarked on a bioarchaeological investigation. Radiocarbon dating, isotopic analysis, and paleogenetics were among the methodologies employed to reconstruct the ancient drama that unfolded in Cornaux/Les Sauges.

The Celtic bridge and the discovered skeletons have sparked debates and controversies, with two prevalent theories being deliberated. Some argue that a sudden flood or tsunami caused the wooden structure to collapse, while others speculate that the corpses were victims of human sacrifice - a ritual often related to water in Celtic practice.

Extensive examination of the skeletons, along with their unique preservation and the presence of brain fragments in a few skulls, suggests that sediment promptly covered the corpses after their demise. Multiple bone lesions and the absence of intentional or sharp-object-related injuries indicate a forceful impact. Additionally, the entanglement of bones with wooden fragments further supports the notion of an accidental event, potentially triggered by a tsunami.

The scrutiny of bones and teeth included chemical analysis, radiocarbon dating, and paleogenetic analysis. Through this meticulous approach, the research team identified a group of at least 20 individuals without evident familial connections. Among them were a young girl, two children, and 17 predominantly young adults, with 15 likely being males. The disproportionate representation of young adult males suggests various scenarios, such as this group comprising prisoners, slaves, merchants, or soldiers. Due to ambiguity in some radiocarbon dates, it remains uncertain whether the deaths occurred simultaneously or during the bridge's destruction.

In conclusion, the exact sequence of events surrounding the Celtic bridge at Cornaux/Les Sauges continues to remain shrouded in mystery. Marco Milella, a researcher from the University of Bern and co-leader of the project, suggests that this bridge possibly served as a sacrificial site, where some corpses predated the accidental incident. The collaborative research not only emphasizes the importance of valuing individual life stories but also enriches our understanding of cultural and biological heritage within the broader population.

The Three Lakes region held significant significance for the Celts, particularly the Helvetians. This study, which pioneers the application of paleogenomics in analyzing Swiss Celtic individuals, provides solid evidence of their genetic affinity to other populations during the Iron Age. Some lineage connections identified in Cornaux are also found in regions like Britain, the Czech Republic, Spain, and central Italy. Isotopic analyses suggest a blend of individuals raised in both the Three Lakes region and the Alps, highlighting the area's lively crossroads and the Celts' mobility during that time.

Top Articles
To see a white owl - meaning

The spiritual significance of seeing a white owl in dreams and in reality: symbolism of the totem

Jul 17, 2024 18:20 PM
What does the name Austin mean

The meaning of the name Austin in spiritual terms: what the letters symbolize

Jul 17, 2024 14:13 PM

The meaning behind the Angel number 3: spiritual insights

Jul 17, 2024 11:32 AM

Symbolism of seeing snakes & spiritual meaning of meeting

Jul 12, 2024 16:59 PM
More News
Dai Greene

Dai Greene, the former world and Commonwealth champion in the 400m hurdles, has officially announced his retirement

Jul 21, 2024 21:59 PM
Three zodiac signs are likely to experience humor, light-heartedness, and a zest for life: horoscope for July 21

Three zodiac signs are likely to experience humor, light-heartedness, and a zest for life: horoscope for July 21

Jul 21, 2024 21:16 PM

Woman says her bee sting addiction not only relieves pain but also improves sex life

Jul 21, 2024 20:55 PM

Bose Enhances QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds with Firmware Update: How to Get It

Jul 21, 2024 20:33 PM
The natural curiosity of three zodiac signs will help them in education next week

The natural curiosity of three zodiac signs will help them in education next week

Jul 21, 2024 20:13 PM
Representatives of three zodiac signs might evolve their communication and networking skills

Representatives of three zodiac signs might evolve their communication and networking skills

Jul 21, 2024 19:53 PM
NASA’s MaGIXS-2 sounding rocket

NASA Sounding Rocket Explores Sun's Active Regions and Heating Mechanisms

Jul 21, 2024 19:29 PM
Hailey and Justin Bieber

Hailey and Justin Bieber's Journey: Preparing for Their Baby's Arrival

Jul 21, 2024 19:08 PM
Three zodiac signs may experience heightened compassion and meaningful connections with others: horoscope for July 21

Three zodiac signs may experience heightened compassion and meaningful connections with others: horoscope for July 21

Jul 21, 2024 18:46 PM

Woman shamed for leaving family party early due to dog allergy

Jul 21, 2024 18:26 PM

7 best films and TV shows starring Twisters lead Daisy Edgar-Jones

Jul 21, 2024 17:43 PM
Norris tops Hungarian Grand Prix practice

Norris Impresses in Hungarian GP Practice while Leclerc Crashes

Jul 21, 2024 17:21 PM
Team GB Cyclists

Team GB Cyclists Implementing Saliva Analysis for Concussion Testing in Paris

Jul 21, 2024 16:59 PM
Grilled Salmon

Grilled Salmon with Savory Marinades

Jul 21, 2024 16:37 PM
Representatives of three zodiac signs should brace for an unexpected professional opportunity

Representatives of three zodiac signs should brace for an unexpected professional opportunity

Jul 21, 2024 16:16 PM

Three zodiac signs to showcase strategic mindset and quick wit next weekend

Jul 21, 2024 15:57 PM

Bring on the Nostalgia: Introducing TinyPod for Your Apple Watch

Jul 21, 2024 15:35 PM
James Webb Space Telescope

Can the James Webb Space Telescope see galaxies over the universe's horizon?

Jul 21, 2024 15:12 PM
1,800-year-old Roman ring depicting goddess Minerva

1,800-year-old Roman ring depicting goddess Minerva found in Israeli quarry

Jul 21, 2024 14:53 PM
Three zodiac signs may experience a positive outlook and significant progress in relationships: horoscope for July 21

Three zodiac signs may experience a positive outlook and significant progress in relationships: horoscope for July 21

Jul 21, 2024 14:29 PM
Natural soap

Connecticut man turns his own body fat into soap, facing backlash online

Jul 21, 2024 14:09 PM
Taylor Swift

The Secrets to Taylor Swift’s Tremendous Success: Unveiling the Pop Culture Powerhouse

Jul 21, 2024 13:47 PM

An itchy left hand can mean more than just unexpected fortune: what palmistry says

Jul 21, 2024 13:26 PM

Paramount+ cancels sci fi action show Halo after 2 seasons

Jul 21, 2024 13:06 PM
Google's Ask Photos

Google's Ask Photos: Revolutionizing Image Search with Gemini AI

Jul 21, 2024 12:45 PM
Representatives of three zodiac signs may make substantial self-discoveries

Representatives of three zodiac signs may make substantial self-discoveries

Jul 21, 2024 12:23 PM