The third gate at Goseck remains mysterious, however: it points north, but not quite. It may have nothing to do with astronomy, for the compound was more than a solar station. In addition to pottery shards and arrowheads within, excavators found the decapitated skulls of oxen, apparently displayed on poles, and parts of two human skeletons. The human bones were cleaned of flesh before being buried. Similar skeletons--several with cut marks or with arrowheads in their necks--have turned up in other circles, but archaeologists cannot agree on whether they attest to human sacrifices or to uncommonly gory funeral rites. Nevertheless, such ceremonies anoint the site as a temple, Bertemes notes--and show that science was inextricably entangled with superstition since Neolithic times.
Madhusree Mukerjee writes from Frankfurt, Germany.