China: Prehistoric sacrifice skulls found

Shimao Ruins Image copyright AFP
Image caption A mass grave protected with plaster at the Shimao Ruins

Archaeologists have found more than 80 skulls in the ruins of a neolithic Chinese city, it's reported.

The remains are mainly those of young women, thought to have died in ancient sacrifices or foundation-laying ceremonies, says China's state news agency Xinhua. Archaeologists found the skulls in pits in front of the east gate and along the city wall of the Shimao Ruins in north-west China. No limb bones have yet been found, says Sun Zhouyong, deputy head of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

The Shimao Ruins were first unearthed in 1976. The walled stone city is the largest neolithic settlement to be found in China. Archaeologists believe it was built about 4,300 years ago, and then abandoned three centuries later during the Xia Dynasty. The skulls will aid research into the religious practices and construction techniques of those living in the Yellow River Basin at the time, when anthropologists say people often used their enemies and captives as sacrifices.

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