Archaeologists have discovered a Late Neolithic (3100 – 2900 B.C.) mass grave at the site of highway construction in Saint-Doulchard, central France. It is the first collective burial of its era found in the region. Similar burials have been found in the Paris Basin. They are older, from the middle of the 4th millennium B.C., and the recent discovery suggests the practice spread 155 miles to the south over the centuries in between.
The bodies of about 40 individuals were interred in a rectangular pit 13 feet long and 5’9″ wide. There was originally some type of wood structure, as evidenced by the rectilinear perimeter of the pit today, but the wood has decomposed over the millennia.
The arrangement of the skeletal remains indicates they were added to the grave from above over time. The skeletons are interwoven in a single layer. They appear to be in their original positions with no reworking of the bones. When the burials were done, the pit was covered with a stone roof. That collapsed into the burial chamber and its stones were the first part of the grave encountered during the excavation.
The bones are in poor condition, but even so it’s evident that buried there were adult men and women, children and adolescents. They were mixed together, not placed in any definable categories. Researchers will attempt to extract DNA from the remains to get more information about the individuals buried there.