Skip to main content

Unusual treatment of human and animal remains at Velim Skalka, Czech Republic

Dr Alan Outram, Dr Stephanie Knight, Professor Chris Knüsel and Professor Anthony Harding

The site of Velim Skalka is a large Bronze Age enclosure in Eastern Bohemia. The site has several discontinuous ditch circuits that contain many artefacts and bones. Some ditch circuits contain burials of entire humans, but others contain semi-articulated or disarticulated human remains mixed with animal bones and broken pottery. Previous studies have indicated that some human remains have suffered unusual peri-mortem treatments (e.g. cutting and deliberate fracture). Cannibalism has been suggested as one interpretation for this patterning.

This project aimed to establish and compare the peri-mortem treatments of the animal and human remains at this site in a highly detailed fashion. It also considered the nature of the contexts in which animal and human remains were found. The subject of cannibalism is an emotive one and past archaeologists have often jumped to interpretations of cannibalism without sufficient justification. There are many forms of ritual that involve human remains and very detailed analysis was required to attempt an interpretation of deposits like those at Velim. This project was supported by a grant from The Leverhulme Trust.

Here are some of the publications stemming from this project:

Harding, A.F., Sumberova, R., Outram, A.K., and Knusel, C. (2007) Velim: Violence and Death in Bronze Age Bohemia. The Results of Fieldwork 1992-95, with a Consideration of Peri-mortem Trauma and Deposition in the Bronze Age. Prague: Institute of Archaeology.

Knüsel, C. and Outram, A.K. (2006) Fragmentation of the Body: Comestibles, Compost, or Customary Rite? In: Knüsel, C. and Gowland, R. (eds) The Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains. Oxford: Oxbow, pp253-278.

Outram, A.K., Knüsel, C., Harding, A.F. and Knight, S. (2005) Understanding Complex Fragmented Assemblages of Human and Animal Remains: A Fully Integrated Approach. Journal of Archaeological Science 32 (12), 1699 – 1710.

Knüsel, C.J. and Outram, A.K. (2004) Fragmentation: the zonation method applied to fragmented human remains from archaeological and forensic contexts. Environmental Archaeology 9:1.