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Archaeologists uncover alignment of six stelae standing stones

The Valais’s buildings, monuments, and archaeology department announced the discovery during construction works on a building site in Sion, Switzerland.

The ritual stones date from the Neolithic period (around 2500BC) and were discovered close to where, during the 1960’s several tombs and standing stones were previously discovered.

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One of the Stele features a male figure and intricate geometric designs. Among the six stelae the archaeologists also discovered a stone slab decorated with cupules (small circular depressions).

An anthropomorphic stele decorated with cupules. © SBMA – ARIA SA.

Field observations identified that some of the stelae were incomplete and deliberately broken before being deposited.

The oldest trace of human settlement in the Sion area comes from 6200BC during the late Mesolithic.

Around 5800BC early Neolithic farmers from the Mediterranean settled in Sion. The settlements remained small until about 4500 BC, during the middle Neolithic, when the number of settlements increased sharply.

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To support the population increase, farming and grazing spread throughout the valley. They also began burying their dead in Chablandes-type stone burial cists with engraved anthropomorphic stelae. The individual graves changed at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC in large, dry stone wall communal tombs (such as the Dolmen of Le Petit-Chasseur).

During the Beaker culture period in the second half of the third Millennium, dolmens were built once again, but they were smaller and had no podium. Stelae continued to be carved, though these were rich with geometric patterns and sometimes built out of old dolmen.

Canton Du Valais Kanton Wallis

Header Image – View of the 2019 site and the alignment of steles. © SBMA-ARIA SA.

 

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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