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It is a moving scene that the archaeologists uncover in Salzmünde when excavators open up a grave to find nine people lying buried there. Four women, one of them pregnant, holding four children – in touching embrace. What happened here? An accident? Or a ritual murder? Researchers from Halle examine the find in Saxony-Anhalt where the people died more than five thousand years ago. In those days, the Young Stone Age or Neolithic Age, a whole village community lived here. They had constructed a fortification, a so-called earthwork. Was it the village inhabitants who buried the people with such loving care? Researchers working in an interdisciplinary project are trying to solve the ancient criminal case.
Nine bodies, lots of questionsFive thousand years ago, nine people died in Salzmünde – under mysterious circumstances. Were they burned alive? Or were they murdered? A group of researchers is investigating the historical mystery.
Catastrophe or ritual?Investigations bear the first results: the researchers can now rule out a house fire as cause of death. Have they found evidence of some kind of death cult?
Broken fragments with a history The researchers in Halle piece together a puzzle to see what they can find: they fit the huge number of shards together. Do the resulting jugs, amphorae and mugs reveal further clues to the mystery of Salzmünde?
Archaeological treasure trove The dead people of Salzmünde go on a journey – safely packed in cases, for the State Museum in Halle wants to exhibit them. With this in mind, the researchers have thought up a very special exhibition technique.
Earlier findSurprising photographic evidence: the researchers find photos of earlier found graves. At that time a number of mysterious multiple graves had also been discovered. Did the earthwork have a special significance for burials?
Hidden in the teeth The criminal investigation moves to Mainz and the Institute of Anthropology: What can the bones and teeth of the dead people tell the experts about their age, origin, and family relationships? The results come as a great surprise to the whole team.
Speaking bonesThe bones of the dead people of Salzmünde confront the anthropologists with yet another mystery: they have discovered a fracture in one of the skulls, possibly caused by an act of violence. So was it a crime after all?
Meeting of expertsThe archaeologists from Halle and the anthropologists from Mainz come together to discuss the status of their research. Will they be able to solve the mystery of the nine-person burial?
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*) The Project
Detective skills are called for: In a burial ground dating back four thousand years BC, a team of researchers led by archaeologist Susanne Friederich stumble across a collective grave. Nine people were buried here over 5,000 years ago – four adult women and five children. Who were they? Were they mothers buried with their children? Did they die as result of a catastrophe – a fire perhaps? Or were they the victims of some kind of ritual sacrifice? The researchers begin their detective work.
Gumboots are part of her work gear when Dr. Susanne Friederich goes out to inspect graves from the Young Stone Age. Most of the time, though, she works at the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt in Halle (Saale), where our Young-Stone-Age specialist analyses archaeological finds – or acts as a guide at the State Museum of Prehistory, explaining to visitors the exhibits which are often more than 5,000 years old.
The Archaeologist Susanne Friederich from Halle examines a mysterious multiple grave dating back some 4,000 years BC.