6,000-year-old Transylvanian Skeletons Found With Urns on Their Heads

Romanian archaeologists recently excavated a 6,000-year-old Transylvanian grave and discovered that its skeletons were buried with urns on either their heads or feet. The urns, along with other discoveries made at the burial site, provide scientists with greater insight into the early inhabitants of the multicultural region.

According to Live Science, the excavation took place ahead of a construction project in Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania's historic capital. At the site, researchers found evidence that two distinct settlements utilized the area: one from the Neolithic period and a Celtic settlement, which came along several thousand years later.

Transylvania is a very culturally diverse region. For many years, the region had "no proper national identity," reported the Telegraph in 2019. While many think of the vampire-laden area as properly Romanian—thanks to Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula—Transylvania didn't always belong to Romania.

For a time in the 1800s, the region belonged to Hungry, according to Britannica. But when Austria-Hungary was defeated in World War I, Transylvania's Romanian population "proclaimed the land united with Romania." The allyship was confirmed in 1920 in the Treaty of Trianon; however, Hungary regained two-fifths of the city during World War II.

In 1947, the entire region was again ceded to Romania.

Of course, the region's history is far more complex than that, and throughout the years, many different cultures have settled there. In fact, seven historically Saxon (German) villages with well-preserved medieval churches still present in the region were added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites between 1993 and 1999, according to Britannica.

With such a diverse past, it is, perhaps, not that surprising to find the remnants of two distinct settlements in one area.

According to Live Science, the urns were found buried with the Neolithic skeletons. Though archaeologists were unable to identify the contents of the urns, it is believed that they contained nourishment for the dead to consume in the afterlife.

At the burial site, Smithsonian Magazine reported researchers also found a cow skull, ceramic fragments and a food storage pit. And traces of wooden walls found at the site likely used to fortify homes suggest that the Neolithic settlement was "fairly sophisticated," said Live Science.

"Their story must be told, revealed, through such excavations. By learning more about them, we will know more about ourselves," Paul Pupeză, an archaeologist at the National Museum of History of Transylvania told local news outlet Gherla Info via Republic World.

"We are the first to get our hands on these fragments, after thousands of years," he continued.

Unlike the Neolithic people, Live Science said the Celts did not leave behind any skeletal remains. According to the publication, Celtic tribes would "incinerate" the dead and place their ashes in large urns. The urns were then placed in the ground alongside offerings.

"The fieldwork is quite hard, we work in the dust, in the heat or in the rain, and the results are not always very spectacular," Pupeză told Gherla Info. "But we are privileged to take this look into the past and reveal something special."

Archaeologists recently excavated a 6,000-year-old Transylvanian grave that contained skeletons and urns. Stock image of Transylvania. Janoka82/iStock