Unusual prehistoric burial site in Tiel-Medel

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Stone Age skeletons found in Tiel-Medel © RAAP

Also see https://www.hunebednieuwscafe.nl/2024/02/4000-year-old-solar-calendar-found-in-tiel/

During excavations in 2017 on an industrial park in the area of Tiel-Medel (Gelderland), archaeologists discovered a large quantity of human bones. Spread over a large area were the skeletons of around 20 people and, remarkably, many of them were women.

In total the team from ADC Archeoprojecten, Archol, BAAC, RAAP and VUhbs, found more than a million objects dating from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman period and the Middle Ages. Finds included a Roman image of the god Jupiter and an unusual bronze cosmetic jar.

A cemetery

The ‘cemetery’ dates from around 3,000 – 2,200 BC and the site is unusual for a number of reasons. Firstly, the dead were buried in an open flat area as in a cemetery and the graves were not covered by a burial mound. Originally the graves lay close to the surface, which explains why the skeletons are soft and fragile. Flooding later covered them with a layer of boulder clay about 1.5 metres thick. This layer helped to preserve the bones but its weight also pressed down on the skeletons, compressing them and breaking some. Even so, the separated broken pieces are relatively well preserved. The oldest previously-known family grave in the Netherlands, discovered more than 25 years ago in Schokland (Noordoostpolder), is in a much worse condition with only the teeth now remaining.

It is especially remarkable that all the skeletons so far analysed are female. The reason for this is unknown. Were they a special group? Were they related? Or was it common practice here at the time that men and women were buried separately?

Archaeologists believe that the people lived close by, in a village near a stream which has also been excavated. They would have been hunter-gatherers and fish-eaters. Through contact with farmers to the south they also began to keep cattle and grow grain. They also took over other traditions from these farmers, such as burials in a communal family grave.

The Tiel-Medel excavation site Archeologie Tiel

Solar calendar

The burial site lies close to a number of mounds, on one of which stood a shrine and a solar calendar. (https://www.hunebednieuwscafe.nl/2024/02/4000-year-old-solar-calendar-found-in-tiel/) . This was laid out somewhat later but it is clearly linked to the cemetery. From one of the openings in the solar calendar there is a direct line of sight to one particular grave in which a woman was buried with a glass bead. She must have been an important person as the bead has a very special significance. The position of this grave was clearly taken into account when the solar calendar was first laid out a few hundred metres away.

Even during the excavations the team realised that this was an unusual site with remarkable remains which had lain under the ground for 5,600 years. In order to preserve the fragile skeletons for examination, it was decided to encase them in a block of clay weighing around 1,000 kilos. After lifting them out of the ground, they were taken to a laboratory, where specialists have worked for many months on the fragile bones. One of the skeletons can now be seen in the local museum, others in the Museum of Antiquity in Leiden.

Source www.mijngelderland.nl

Tekst    Alun Harvey

Stone Age skeletons found in Tiel-Medel © RAAP

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