The site in China, whose modern-day name is Hamin Mangha, dates back to a time when writing was not used in the area, when people lived in small settlements and grew crops as well as hunted for food. Remains of pottery, spearheads and grinding instruments shed some light on their way of life.
In a small 5,000-year-old one-room house, 97 dead bodies have been found stuffed inside.
The bodies belong to children, young adults and middle-aged adults, and were packed close together in the small space. Hamin Magha is the largest and best-preserved prehistoric settlement in China. In 2011, researchers found the foundations of 29 one-room houses, with a hearth and a doorway on each.
Anthropologists who studied the remains say that a ‘prehistoric disaster’ – most probably an epidemic of some kind – killed all the people found in the room.
The house with the bodies, named F40, is just 210 square feet (around 20 square meters). “On the floor, numerous human skeletons are disorderly scattered,” wrote the archaeologists. The skeletons in the northwest are relatively complete, while those in the east often have only skulls, with limb bones barely remaining.
At some point in history, the structure burnt down. The wooden beams of the roof likely collapsed, causing the bones to not only char but also become deformed.
An anthropological team in Jilin University, China, is studying the prehistoric remains, trying to determine what happened to the people. So far, they have stated that the people in the house died due to a “prehistoric disaster”, which led to bodies being stuffed inside the house “successively and stacked centrally”.
It is the belief of the team that the dead came in faster than they could be buried, which led to the bodies being stacked.
Another interesting fact about the remains is that half the bodies belonged to individuals from 19 to 35 years of age. There isn’t any remain older than that. The ages of the victims are similar to a prehistoric mass burial unearthed in Miaozigou in northeast China.
The similarity may indicate that both the sites had a similar cause for the deaths, possibly an outbreak of an acute infectious disease.