DNA Study of 6,200-Year-Old Massacre Victims Raises More Questions Than Answers

Around 6,200 years ago, a group of at least 41 men, women, and children were brutally murdered before being dumped in a mass grave in what is now eastern Croatia. Initially, the archaeologists who uncovered the grave in 2007 wondered if the victims were an entire inter-related community targeted for execution. But a new analysis reported in the journal PLOS ONE — including what is the largest genetic study of an ancient massacre to date — reveals that the victims were mostly unrelated. This surprising discovery raises more questions than it answers: Most significantly, why were these individuals killed, and who killed them? “That’s the one million-dollar question,” says the study’s lead author Mario Novak, an archaeologist at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb, Croatia. “We just don’t know.” And unless some clear-cut archaeological evidence is found nearby, he adds, “I don’t think we will ever find out.”

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