An international team of researchers conducted genetic analysis on the remains from an ancient massacre site in Croatia - revealing what might be the oldest instance of indiscriminate killing to date.

Led by Mario Novak from the Institute for Anthropological Research in Croatia, Ron Pinhasi from the University of Vienna in Austria, and David Reich from Harvard Medical School and Harvard University in the United States, the findings of the new study appears in a March 10 PLOS ONE report titled "Genome-wide analysis of nearly all the victims of a 6200 year old massacre."

A Painting of the 1258 AD Siege of Baghdad
(Photo : Sayf al-vahidi et al. via Wikimedia Commons)
Throughout history, there has been countless incidents of slaughter against fellow man - such as the Siege of Baghdad, in which Mongols conqured the then flourishing center of Baghdad. While most mass graves studied reveal casualties of war, or families executed, or victims of religious rituals, a new study appearing in PLOS ONE reveals what might be the oldest known incident of indiscriminate killing from 6,200 years ago.

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Uncommon Occurrence

Up until now, most palegenomic and bioanthropological studies, including genetic analysis, conducted on ancient massacres mostly reveal male victims most likely killed in battle, or members of the same family executed in incidents of intentional killing of a specific subset of the community.

In other cases, the discovered remains are those of migrant communities in conflict with native inhabitants of the site, or the killing was conducted as a part of a religious ritual.

However, the massacre of 41 individuals in Potočani in Croatia some 6,200 years ago reveals that it was most likely a case of indiscriminate killing at a large scale.

Using skeletal remains from 38 of the 41 individuals buried at the Potočani mass grave were subjected to radiocarbon dating, found to be from around 4,200 cal BCE. The remains are from members of the ancient Lasinja culture, who lived around the area during the Middle Eneolithic age, better known as the Copper Age.

Furthermore, a series of genetic and morphological analysis on the remains reveals that the Potočani mass grave contained individuals from both sexes with 21 male remains and 20 females. These remains also belong to age groups defined as subadults with 21 members: two young children between two and five years, nine children between six to ten years, and ten adolescents between eleven and seventeen years old. The rest were twenty adults: fourteen of them between 18 to 35 years old, while five are between 36 to 50 years old. One of the adults' age at the time of death can not be accurately determined.

The genetic analysis additionally reveals family ties among the victims of the indiscriminate killing, although the majority of them were not related to each other. Also, while most remains are not relatives, the genetic analysis reveals that all examined remains were from the same homogenous ancestry of predominantly Anatolian Neolithic with about nine percent of Western European hunter-gatherer ancestries.

According to the researheresesults of the study show that large-scale indiscriminate killing is not limited to the modern times, nor from the periods of civilized history - that they were also parts of prehistoric settlements.

The Lasinja People

Named after Lasinja, a village situated of the Kupa River in northern Croatia, remnants of the Lasinja people have been discovered in various sites around the area - between the Sava, Drava, and Danube rivers, down to the Velebit Mountain in the southwest direction.

They were first discovered in the 1950s by the Austrian prehistorian Richard Pittioni in his native Austria. Also, remains of these people were first reported in Croatia and Slovenia by archaeologist Josip Korošec.


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