Archaeologists have unearthed eight prehistoric tombs between 5,500 and 6,500 years old in the heart of a Swiss town but not before construction work had severely damaged three of them.
The site is the location of a famous necropolis, home to dozens of tombs, in the Swiss town of Pully, which is in the suburbs of the city of Lausanne in Vaud Canton.
But there had been no new discoveries for years until a team were sent in to check during a new spate of construction works in the area, and stumbled across eight new graves.
The experts, who made their discovery on Chemin de Verney Street, believe the eight graves date back to the Neolithic period, between 4,500 and 3,500 BC.
The huge necropolis extends, at the very least, from the Chemin de Verney Street to the Chemin des Chamblandes Street. With the latest find, the necropolis is believed to be home to about 80 tombs.
It was first discovered over a century ago by Swiss archaeologist, historian and architect Albert Naef (1862-1936).
The Vaud Canton authorities said in a statement obtained by Newsflash that “archaeological monitoring of the work on Chemin de Verney, entrusted to the company Archeodunum SA, was carried out between 28th June and 17th August 2021.”
The statement added: “In an area of barely 10 square metres, eight vault tombs, made of molasse slabs, have been unearthed.”
Molasse is a term that usually means sandstone, shale, and other forms of stone that result from new mountain chains forming and rising. They can typically be found in the Alps and in the Himalayas.
The statement also said: “They appeared at a shallow depth and their cover slabs, which were very fragmented, were only very partially preserved.
“Two graves were intact in the centre of the trench, the others having suffered damage caused by recent digging in connection with urban networks.”
The statement also said that only three tombs yielded skeletal remains, in the form of skulls, due to the urban network construction work.
They also said that “as it was a rescue excavation, the graves which lay outside the grip of the works were protected and left in situ. The last discoveries in this district of Pully date back to 1984”.
They said that these new sarcophagi represent a rare opportunity to complete the mapping of the necropolis, which still remains “difficult to fathom” given the absence of “extensive, recent digs” at the site.
The city of Lausanne lies on the shores of Lake Geneva. There have been numerous prehistoric finds over the years, starting in 1826 when a Neolithic necropolis was discovered near the Chemin de Chamblandes site at Pierra-Portay.