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Shaanxi - 80 Skulls found

Archaeologists make grisly discovery of 80 skulls in China's largest neolithic city

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Yesterday we reported on the discovery of two massive beacon towers in China’s largest discovered Neolithic city called the Shimao ruins in Shaanxi Province.  Now, archaeologists have made another incredible finding at the site – more than 80 skulls dumped in groups – and the rest of their bodies are nowhere to be found.

The grisly discovery was made in two pits, with 24 skulls in each, in front of the east gate of the city ruin while others were later uncovered along the eastern city wall. 

According to Sun Zhouyong, deputy head of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, there has been no sign of their limb bones. 

The Shimao ruins were built about 4,300 years ago and extend over an area of 4.25 square kilometres. The city contained a central area with inner and outer structures and walls surrounding the outer city.  Remains of palaces, houses, tombs, sacrificial altars, murals, and handicraft workshops have also been found scattered around the site, indicating that the city played an important role in the Chinese northern cultural sphere.

Based on the location of the skulls, archaeologists believe that they are related to the construction of the city wall and may have been part of a religious ritual or foundation ceremony launched before construction of the inner city began.  According to Sun, an analysis on the remains revealed that most of them belonged to young women, who may have been sacrificed as part of the rituals.

The skulls will serve as important materials for research on the religious thinking, construction concepts and cultural activities of people living along the Yellow River Basin over 4,000 years ago.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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