Imagine watching a group of toddlers play at their kindergarten. Suddenly, they run up to you, holding…what? A stick? A rock? How about human bones and teeth? That’s what happened in Saint-Laurent-Medoc, France, in 2006. The kids were immediately whisked off and authorities began investigating the area. They soon realized these remains were old. Very old. Archaeologists unearthed bones from 20 adults and 10 children from an early Bronze Age population known as the Bell-Beaker culture.
This group is named after their bell-shaped vessels, which spread through Europe for as long as 1,000 years. They overwhelmed local styles, giving researchers a rough guide for their movement. Because the Bell-Beaker culture used a variety of decorations on the pottery, newer research has called it the Bell-Beaker ‘Complex” or even “Phenomenon.” In addition to the unique pottery, the people group also frequently buried their dead with flint arrowheads and stone wrist-guards.
At first, researchers believed the kindergarten graveyard only held people from the time of the Bell-Beaker complex. However, a new study reveals the mound was used for a much longer period. Using isotope analysis and carbon dating, scientists were able to show that the human remains were buried between 3600-1250 BCE. At least one person came from a colder area of Europe and may have been transported after death. Most were locals based on the fact that they ate food gathered from the land, not the sea.
Why was this mound such a popular burial place for thousands of years? Experts don’t know. The location itself doesn’t seem to be anything special. Along with the bones, archaeologists found pieces of metal, ceramics, and animal bones. The one thing we know for sure is that local toddlers won’t be getting their old playground back anytime soon.