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Sep 12, 2013 09:09 AM EDT

Boon Archaeologists Discover Mass Grave of Dismembered Skeletons in Mayan City

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Archaeologists from the University of Boon have uncovered a 1,400-year-old mass grave in a former water reservoir in the historical Mayan city of Uxul in Mexico.

"It is absolutely rare to find such a mass grave in the Maya area,' said Nicolaus Seefeld, an archaeologist from the University of Bonn and the one who discovered the gravesite. "The only other archaeological evidence of such a dismemberment of victims was in the site of Cancuén, Guatemala."

The 7th-century grave comprising of numerous mutilated skeletons of 24 victims is the first such physical evidence of violent acts of murder. These acts, often portrayed in Mayan art, were real.

At the site, skulls were scattered and disconnected from their bodies and in some, lower jaws had separated from the heads.

 "Aside from the large number of interred individuals, it already became apparent during the excavation that the skeletons were no longer in their original anatomical articulation," said Seefield. "The observed hatchet marks on the cervical vertebra are a clear indication of decapitation."

However, researchers are unsure about the identity of the victims - whether they were prisoners of war from another Mayan city, sacrificed in Uxul or aristocrats/residents of Uxul itself.

The project was led by Dr Nikolai Grube and Dr Kai Delvendahl from the University and Dr Antonio Benavides from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Since the bones were covered by clay, they were well-preserved, which in turn helped the scientists to determine the age and sex of 15 of the 24 individuals. Among the 24 victims, 13 were men and two women who were aged between 18 and 42 at the time of their death.

Further examination of the teeth and bones revealed that several of the dead suffered from undernourishment, had lost several teeth to tooth decay and some of them had jade tooth inserts which suggests that they belonged to the higher social status.

(Photo : Boon)
Skulls from the mass grave showing deposits of jade on the incisors.

 "I observed complete legs, whose bones were still in the correct anatomical articulation from the hip, to the femur, the kneecaps until the smallest toe-bones," said Seefeld. "Apart from that, I also observed other detached body parts such as severed heads, complete hands, detached feet."

The bones also provided information about how each victim had died. According to the Daily Mail, the researchers observed blunt force trauma on the foreheads and traces of sharp blades, which had cut away parts of skulls and had severed the heads.

 "This observation excluded the possibility that this mass grave was a so-called secondary burial, in which the bones of the deceased are placed at a new location" Seefeld said.

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