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27 October 2009
German archaeologists excavate 4,000-year-old skeletons

Archaeologists in Germany have made a number of sensational finds along a railway line under construction in eastern Germany - Bronze Age treasures, burial sites and evidence of settlements dating back more than 7,000 years. Copper and amber jewellery and hundreds of dogs' teeth with holes bored in them as well as small shell discs worn as decoration for clothing have been found in the remains of settlements and graves from various epochs along the planned high-speed railway line from the cities of Erfurt to Leipzig.
     Scientists have ascertained that a number of skeletons are from the Bronze Age, as the corpses were stacked on top of one another, suggesting that they were buried in what is known as a 'layered grave.' Archaeologists discovered a cluster of eight graves that included a woman interred in a sitting position. Scientists are hoping to find clues about why she was buried in such an unusual position through testing on the skeletons. DNA testing will be applied to establish whether and how the people were related.
     "The broad range of traces from ancient cultures and the number and quality of the individual finds show how important this region has been for thousands of years not just as a settlement area, but as a transport route," archaeologists said. Over the last year, archaeologists have retrieved more than 55,000 items on an area of around 100 hectares (247 acres).
     The construction of the Inter City Express (ICE) rail link has provided a unique opportunity to conduct a 22-kilometer dig along one of the key settlement areas of central Germany. The excavations will continue until mid-2010. The find includes a farm from the early Bronze Age Unetice culture of 2200 to 1600 BCE. The digs will continue at the site until the middle of next year. Researchers are aiming to have the finds ready for documentation by 2011.

Sources: Deutsche Welle (19 October 2009), Spiegel Online (20 October 2009)

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