If you’ve ever seen any movies about archaeology, you know that there are two primary rules to follow when poking around at an ancient burial site:
1. When approaching the burial mound or entering the crypt, do not be the bug-eyed native holding the torch at the front of the line. Your heavy breathing will only annoy the spiteful gods who guard the place, and you are guaranteed to be the first one killed as the warriors of the spirit world exact revenge on the human intruders.
2. Whatever you do, do not disturb the remains. The spiteful gods will settle for giving you a good fright if you refrain from touching the goods. Trying to take them home with you or otherwise futzing around in there is like signing your own death warrant.
According to this story in the New York Times, a bunch of German scientists completely ignored rule #2 by not only moving a group of 4,600 year old bones, but also running them through all sorts of spectrometers and seismographs and electron busbar rotoscopes and whatnot:
One of the graves contained a woman with three children, at least two of whom were not hers. The researchers suggest the woman might be their aunt or a stepmother. Another grave contained a family of four, according to the analysis — making it the oldest molecular genetic evidence of a nuclear family ever obtained.
I know what you’re saying. You’re saying this type of science helps science piece together the long tapestry of human history by opening up advanced geneological techniques. The details of the social, biological, and migratory behavior of our ancient selves will undoubtedly come clearer in the wake of such groundbreaking research.
I say “Oh yeah? Well you suck.” Because these bodies weren’t just sad cave people who caught pneumonia at the same time.
These cave people were…
“Normally a family doesn’t die at the same time,” Dr. Haak said. So that was one clue to what happened. Others were found in bones: fractured skulls, an arrowhead in a spine and signs of defensive injuries to arms and hands.
Dr. Haak, who is now at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said the evidence suggested that the community was attacked. Adolescents and young adults were either not present — perhaps they were working in fields — or were able to escape, while younger children and older adults were killed. But then the survivors returned and, with intimate knowledge of the relationships among the dead, properly buried them.
Then a bunch of German scientists came along and stuck their lederhosen all up in the grave site, spurring the ghosts of the stone age warriors back into action. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a plan. I’m going to follow these German scientists around with a big sign with an arrow on it that says “THEY DID IT.” I bet you wish you thought of that.