Massacred victims found in well at Entrains-sur-Nohain Photo © Captair

Victims of a medieval massacre found in a well in Entrains-sur-Nohain

Entrains-sur-Nohain was witness to a terrible massacre in the 8th – 10th centuries

INRAP – Institut national de recherches archaeologiques preventives – recently finished an archaeological investigation of a Roman village, Intaranum. Located in the Northwest of France at the crossroad of an important Roman network of roads it covered more than 120 ha2 of which 1000 m2 has been excavated. The archaeological investigation has uncovered a stretch of a road, a forge and a series of stone houses complete with bathing facilities equipped with hot and cold baths. These were supplied with water from deep wells.

Excavating one of these, the archaeologists found a gruesome collection of human skeletons packed in a layer measuring more than 3 metres. It is estimated that between 20 to 30 bodies were dumped into the well. Representing a collection of men, women and children the people are believed to be of civilian origin.

Even though the wells are from the antiquity, the bodies have preliminarily been dated to the period between the 8th and the 10th century. This leaves us with a number of plausible events, which may indirectly have caused the medieval massacre:

1) In 841 the sons of Louis the Pious – Lothar, Charles the Bald and Louis the German fought at Fontenoy, 25 km north of Entrains – about a days ride up North. Charles the Bald set up camp in Thury, 16 km from Entrains.

2) After 845 the Vikings arrived in the region pillaging not only Paris, Chartres and Beauvais but also Orleans and the Abbey of Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire. The massacre may have been the result of a Viking band of warriors pillaging the countryside, 30 km inland from Loire.

3) The third explanation presented is more general. The massacre may simply have been caused by one of the groups of brigands, which were known to pillage villages before the turn of the millennium, which witnessed the formation of the peace-movement, Pax Dei meant to control anarchy and widespread violence which followed in the weakening of the Carolingian power.

Future studies of the skeletons will hopefully provide a more precise date plus more information about the dead and whether they show signs of mutilations and violence. One possibility is also that the dead people were the victims of an epidemic. However, if this was the case, the question remains why they were not buried in the local cemetery, but rather dumped in a well.


Au fond du puits, mystérieuse découverte à Entrains-sur-Nohain

INRAP 18.12.2013


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