Ancient Beheadings and Holy Kings: 'Brutal Slaughter' Revealed at Jerusalem Mass Burial Site

A picture of a human skull. Archaeologists in Jerusalem unearthed the beheaded remains of some 125 men, women and children thought to have died more than 2,000 years ago, according to Haaretz. Getty Images

Archaeologists in Jerusalem have unearthed the beheaded remains of some 125 men, women and children thought to have died more than 2,000 years ago, according to Haaretz.

The ancient bones found scattered in a water cistern align with historical accounts of a "brutal slaughter" described in academic commentaries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Times of Israel reported.

"We removed from the pit more than 20 neck vertebrae, which were cut by a sword," Israel antiquities authority anthropologist Yossi Nagar said during a presentation at the 12th Annual Conference on New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region, the publication reported. "We discovered in the pit bodies and body parts of infants and adult individuals, women and men, who were probably victims of a brutal slaughter."

The Israel antiquities authority did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

The bones are thought to date from the reign of Judean king and high priest Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 B.C.)—a period characterized by bloody violence and ongoing power struggles, the Times stated. After a brutal six-year civil war, Jannaeus ordered the crucifixion of some 800 political opponents, according to interpretations of text from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Others, the publication reported, were beheaded.

Archaeologists Kfir Arbiv and Tehillah Lieberman, who excavated the bones, said the newly-unearthed remains match up with this historical picture. Jannaeus slaughtered his enemies and their families, with embryonic remains suggesting that even pregnant women were killed, the researchers said. Large numbers of sword cuts to the neck, lower jaw and even the base of the skull support a picture of mass decapitation.

Roman-era charred bones of men were also discovered at the site, Haaretz stated.

In other archaeological news, scientists in Egypt have recently unearthed ancient buildings, hundreds of tombs and even a new sphinx statue. Researchers in Russia have found a medieval board game in a secret chamber beneath a castle. Meanwhile, sacrificed human remains and a massive pyramid from the lost city of Shimao are rewriting historian's understanding of ancient China.

Historical remains are also helping scientists paint a picture of the spread of deadly diseases, such as tuberculosis. Researchers recently traced the history of TB from ancient times to today using samples from mummies and contemporary sources. In July, news emerged that scientists had found the oldest evidence of deadly bacteria salmonella in human remains from Europe.