An ancient “city of the dead” with 40 bodies entombed in ceramic jars has been discovered in the French island of Corsica.
The North African amphorae jars date back more than 1,700 years and were thought to just be used to transport wine and olives.
But archaeologists have discovered they were also used as “receptacles for the deceased” in a new clue over the island’s blood-splattered past.
The ceramic jars were dug up in the heart of a sleepy 18th century fishing village of L’Ile Rousse on the island’s western coast.
A necropolis had been discovered behind its parish church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, during archaeological surveys.
The corpses have now been dated to the first half of the first millennium while the island exchanged hands multiple times, the Mail Online reports.
Researchers began excavating two 6,500-square-foot sites in the centre of town and discovered a dozen tombs in spring 2019.
The French National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research said they uncovered dozens more in February and March with “great diversity in their architectural style”.
Most of the artifacts found alongside them were of Roman origin but experts warn they could have been repurposed by Visigoths and later settlers.
“While it was believed the area was largely deserted, the discovery of the impressively populated Corsica necropolis raises the possibility that population density in the area during the mid-first millennium was greater than had been imagined,” the institute said.
It added L’Ile Rousse has been occupied for at least 6,000 years, but “the archaeological indications of previous occupations were rare and fragmentary”.
The uncovered amphorae jars were often used to import olive oil, wine and other goods, across the Mediterranean from Carthage, now known as Tunisia, between the 4th and 7th centuries.
Typically they were only used to bury children but the researchers found adults had been entombed as well.
The remains of 40 individuals were uncovered in all, buried some time between the 3rd and 6th centuries.
Some of the tombs were covered with terracotta materials commonly used in Roman roof tiles.
Further analysis to learn more about the identities of the deceased is needed.
The first half of the first millennium was a period of great instability for Corsica.
It represented a small but strategic outpost for anyone trying to control Mediterranean sea lanes.
The island was under Carthaginian rule until 240 BC, when they were supplanted by the Romans.
Hundreds of years later in 410 AD, it passed to the Visigoths, who renamed Agilla as Rubico Rocega.
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It then was controlled by the Vandals and Ostrogoths, before becoming part of the Byzantine Empire in 536 AD.
How that turmoil affected the area, “has always been a mystery”, according to the site Ancient Origins.