A farewell to arms: a deposit of human limbs and bodies at Bergheim, France, c. 4000 BC

Fanny Chenala1a2 c1, Bertrand Perrina1 c1, Hélène Barrand-Emama1a2 and Bruno Boulestina3

a1 ANTEA-Archéologie, 11 rue de Zurich, F-68440 Habsheim, France (Email:;

a2 Université de Strasbourg, UMR 7044-ARCHIMÈDE, MISHA, 5 allée du Général Rouvillois, CS 50008, F-67083 Strasbourg Cedex, France

a3 Université de Bordeaux, UMR 5199-PACEA-A3P, Anthropologie des populations passées et présentes, Allée Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, CS 50023, F-33615 Pessac Cedex, France



Between c. 4500 and 3500 BC, the deposition of human remains within circular pits was widespread throughout Central and Western Europe. Attempts at forming explanatory models for this practice have proven difficult due to the highly variable nature of these deposits. Recent excavations at Bergheim in Alsace have revealed a particularly unusual variant of this phenomenon featuring a number of amputated upper limbs. The evidence from this site challenges the simplicity of existing interpretations, and demands a more critical focus on the archaeological evidence for acts of systematic violence during this period.

(Received September 30 2014)

(Accepted January 15 2015)

(Revised January 19 2015)


  • France;
  • Late Neolithic;
  • human remains;
  • circular pits;
  • amputation;
  • violence


c1 Authors for correspondence