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20 September 2011
Ancient human skulls mounted on stakes found on Swedish lake

Several human skulls found mounted on wooden stakes have been uncovered from a Stone Age lake bed in central Sweden in what is believed to be the first discovery of its kind anywhere in the world."We found two skulls that still had wooden stakes sticking out of them through a whole at the base of the skull," archeologist Fredrik Hallgren, head of excavation with the Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen ('Cultural Preservation Society of Mälardalen') said.
     The skulls and other artifacts, including bones of wild animals, were recovered at the Kanaljorden excavation site in the town of Motala in central Sweden. According to results from carbon-14 dating techniques, the skulls and other items are estimated to be about 8,000-years-old. "As far as we know, this discovery is unique in the world," said Hallgren.
     The mounted skulls were found with the stakes inserted the full length from the base to the top of the skull. In another case a temporal bone of one individual identified as a female was found placed inside the skull of another woman. Altogether Hallberg and his colleagues have identified skulls or skull fragments from 11 individuals, including both men and women and ranging in age from infants to middle-age.
     The bones were found in what was a shallow lake during the early Stone Age which appears to have served as a ceremonial burial site. "Clearly this lake was some sort of holy place for the people who lived here at the time," said Hallberg.
     Two theories may explain why the human skulls were mounted on wooden stakes before being placed in the lake bed. "One thought is that it was part of some sort of secondary burial ritual where the skulls were removed from dead bodies that had initially been placed elsewhere," said Hallberg. "After the soft tissue had rotted away, the skulls were removed and placed on the stakes before being placed in the shallow lake." Another theory is that the mounted skulls are trophies brought back from battles with other settlers in the area. "It may have been a way to prove one's success on the battlefield," Hallberg explained.
     Further analysis is currently underway to determine if the bones are remains of locals or people with a distant geographic origin.A rchaeologists will also try to find out if the remains found at the site belong to a single family group or persons unrelated to one another.

Edited from The Local (19 September 2011)

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