Archaeologists Uncover Skeletal Victims of Ancient Raid

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NBC News reports that Swedish archaeologists have discovered a terrifying scene that is being called the "Swedish Pompeii." An island off the Swedish coast named Öland held the remains of a 5th century fort, and after discovering the foundations of a house, the scientists discovered a horrific scene.

Five people, all unearthed from the same ruined house, had been suddenly and brutally killed. As the digging continued, more bodies were discovered throughout the fort, which causes the researchers to believe that there may be hundreds of skeletons yet to be seen

"It's more of a frozen moment than you normally see in archaeology. It's like Pompeii: Something terrible happened, and everything just stopped," said Helene Wilhelmson, a researcher with a specialty in bones from Lund University. "There are so many bodies, it must have been a very violent and well-organized raid."

The skeletons date to a period referred to as the Migration Period, when Scandinavian tribes migrated to other parts of Europe and encroached on the declining Roman Empire, which split into Eastern and Western halves near beginning of the 4th century CE.

The conditions of the skeletons puzzled the Swedish researchers because Scandinavian barbarian tribes generally cremated their dead; the few uncremated skeletons that have ever been recovered cause the archaeologists to ask questions about the conditions of the fort at Öland. Were there no survivors left to cremate the dead?

The 2010 discovery of gold, gilded brooches (pictured above) at the site is also strange in the context of a violent raid. Wouldn't raiders, who plundered for riches and gold, have taken them along with the rest of their loot?

In any case, the archaeologists are using advanced 3-D modeling to recreate the crime scene. Nicolo Dell'Unto, an archaeologist from Lund University, said "[With] this specific site, I found extremely interesting the relation between the bodies and the reconstruction of the events. I want to [utilize these new techniques] to help us to understand these events in terms of what actually happened, minute-by-minute."

[Images via a YouTube video of the Lund University discovery]

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