Reconstitution of a prehistoric tomb containing the ‘Ladies of Teviec’, two women in their twenties or early thirties.

A Makeshift Casket of Sea Shells and Antlers: The 6500-Year-Old Grave of the Unfortunate Ladies of Téviec

(Read the article on one page)

Téviec would be a rather anonymous island located somewhere in Brittany, France, if it wasn’t for its great archaeological value thanks to the many finds – mainly from the Mesolithic Period – that have been excavated there. These finds include the skeletons of two women, dated between 6740 and 5680 BC, who may have been violently murdered.

Archaeologists Put Téviec on the Mesolithic Map

Téviec Island, Brittany, France.

Téviec Island, Brittany, France. ( BCD)

Téviec is one of the very few known Mesolithic sites in Brittany, along with Pointe de la Torche, Hoëdic and Beg er Vil on the Quibe. It has been the subject of a biotope protection scheme for the past 35 years. Therefore, landing on the island has become a troublesome task for contemporary archaeologists, since it is generally prohibited from 15 April to 31 August.

That wasn’t always the case, though. From 1928 to 1934, archaeologists Marthe and Saint-Just Péquart discovered and excavated a culturally and archaeologically rich Mesolithic site on the island, dated to between 5700 and 4500 BC. According to most historians, this is considered the end of the Mesolithic period in western France and it overlaps with the beginning of the Neolithic period.

Marthe and Saint-Just Péquart – after first discovering the tomb. 1928

Marthe and Saint-Just Péquart – after first discovering the tomb. 1928 ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The main finds at the site were substantial middens formed of oyster and clam shells and ten multiple graves containing 23 skeletons, including adults and children. Among the shells were the remains of animals as well, such as dogs, crabs, fish, lobsters, seabirds, deer, and boar among others. Due to the acidity of the soil in the location, the bones have been remarkably preserved, even though many of the skeletons showed clear signs of brutality and violence, including one with an arrowhead embedded in its spine.

A midden, composed of shells, animal bones etc. providing insights into life on the island.

A midden, composed of shells, animal bones etc. providing insights into life on the island. (John Tustin/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The Unfortunate Ladies of Téviec

The most fascinating and mysterious of all discoveries, however, is undoubtedly the grave that includes the skeletons of two women aged 25–35, dubbed the "Ladies of Téviec.” Their bodies were buried delicately in a pit that was partly dug into the ground and coated over with debris from the midden. The corpses had been protected all these centuries by a roof made of antlers and supplied with pieces of flint, boar bones, and jewelry made of sea shells such as necklaces, bracelets, and ringlets for their legs. The grave collection was unearthed from the site as a whole and is now on display at the Muséum de Toulouse, where its restoration in 2010 earned several awards.

The Ladies of Téviec, both featuring traumatic injuries to the skull.

The Ladies of Téviec, both featuring traumatic injuries to the skull. (Rama/ CC BY-SA 2.0 FR )

The thing that shocked archaeologists the most though, was the blatant violence and brutality the two women sustained before they died. Scientists examining the skeletons concluded that one of them had suffered five blows to the head, two of which were possibly fatal, and had also received at least one arrow shot between the eyes. The other body also had traces of injuries, but not as violent as the body of her “friend.” In recent years, however, this diagnosis is debated by some archaeologists, who claim that the immense weight of the soil above the grave may have been the cause of damage for the skeletons. An obvious question that probably occurs upon reading this is: How could the weight and composition of any soil – no matter how heavy it might be –ever justify an arrow shot between the eyes? It doesn’t make any sense, does it?

A Very Cold Case: Attempts to Solve the Téviec Mystery Almost 6,500 Years Later

In 2012, replicas of the two skeletons were laid for the first time on a mortuary slab of Toulouse Natural History Museum, during an exhibition titled Prehistory: The Investigation , which became a big hit in France.

“When you create an exhibition, you need to create an atmosphere and a lot of TV shows are about CSI and forensics and they always start with a forensics table – and here it is,” said Dr. Francis Duranthon, the director of the Toulouse Natural History Museum, pointing to the mortuary slab.

Comments

Wonderful look into the past. However, why is it, when there is evidence of injury it is automatically assumed that it was because of human sacrifice?..Humans are quite capable of doing bodily harm on their own without religion getting in the middle of it... To keep perpetuating this idea for, EVERY, damaged skeleton found, is exactly what those of the Christian faith use to brow beat those who follow the old beliefs... I am not saying that human sacrifice didn't happen, It did, but I believe it is falsely claimed way to much...

That's a good point. While people now can tell how people in the past died, traumatic injuries, how can they know why? Why for example, was someone beaten or shot? Without knowing more, claiming human sacrifice is an assumption.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Asokan pillar at Vaishali, Bihar, India.
Centuries removed from the prehistoric Indus Valley Region, the Mauryan and Kushan dynasties are among the most significant cultural and artistic regimes in Indian history. The prominence of the Mauryan's longest leader, and the interactions of the Kushan with their Persian, Chinese, and Greek neighbors creates distinctive visual narratives that have shaped the culture of India as it is today.

Myths & Legends

An image of Enki from the Adda cylinder seal.
In the belief system of the Sumerians, Enki (known also as Ea by the Akkadians and Babylonians) was regarded to be one of the most important deities. Originally Enki was worshipped as a god of fresh water and served as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (which the ancient Mesopotamians believe was the first city to have been established in the world). Over time, however, Enki’s influence grew and this deity was considered to have power over many other aspects of life, including trickery and mischief, magic, creation, fertility, and intelligence.

Human Origins

Detail of ‘God creating the Sun, the Moon and the Stars’ by Jan Brueghel the Younger.
Although most mainstream scientists and most of the developed world now accept the theory of evolution and the scientifically established age of Earth and the universe, there is still a group of people that resist the status quo and insist, based on a particular literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 in the Hebrew Bible

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Opinion

El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article