World News

Iberian Iron Age massacre

The Iron Age settlement of La Hoya in the Ebro River Valley in Spain was discovered in 1935 and excavated between 1973 and 1990. It was known then that a violent attack must have taken place, as the skeletons of both people and animals were found lying where they had died, untouched for centuries.

Recent post-excavation analysis of these remains, however, has shed new light on the likely scenario that led to their deaths. Of the 13 individuals recovered, several were found to have multiple sharp-force injuries, including evidence of decapitation and dismemberment. Many of these wounds appear to have been inflicted from behind, perhaps while the individuals were trying to escape. This evidence, in conjunction with the lack of defensive wounds and of weapons, as well as the presence of women and children, suggests that this was probably a surprise attack on an unsuspecting village, rather than a planned battle.

Prehistoric ball games

image: Patrick Wertmann.

Three leather balls have been discovered among graves in the Yanghai cemetery of north-west China. Dating to between 2,900 and 3,200 years ago, this is the oldest evidence for ball games in Asia. While ball sports are known to have been played in ancient Egypt c.4,500 years ago and in Central America c.3,700 years ago, previous evidence for such activities in Europe or Asia was only known from c.2,500 years ago. This new evidence pushes back their existence in Asia by at least 300 years.

It is not known what sort of sport would have been played with these balls, but as hit marks have been identified on them, a type of team or goal sport, possibly involving a bat or other wooden stick, has been suggested. While some curved wooden sticks were also found in the cemetery, though, they appear to be much later in date than the balls.

Accessibility in ancient Greece

It is known through literature, works of art, and bioarchaeological evidence that mobility impairments were fairly common in ancient Greece, and that affected individuals appear to have played an active role in society. This idea is supported by research presented in a recent Antiquity paper (, which has examined the structures of ancient Greek temples.

The study found that, while most temples did not have ramps to allow easy access for those with reduced mobility, many of those that were built specifically as healing sanctuaries did. In particular, the Temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus, which was perhaps the most-important healing sanctuary in ancient Greece, had at least 11 ramps to aid access into both the main temple and its ancillary buildings.