The bones of almost 100 human bodies have been unearthed in an ancient village in the north-east of China.
Some 97 skeletal remains of people aged between 19 and 35 were found stuffed into a 5,000-year-old house which had a floor area of a modern day squash court, about 14ft by 15ft, Live Science reported.
The village, named Hamin Mangha, fell foul to a "prehistoric disaster" which would have killed many of the inhabitants who were then placed inside the then intact building after they had died, claim anthropologists who studied the area.
"Hamin Mangha site is the largest and best-preserved prehistoric settlement site found to date in north-east China," wrote archaeologists in Chinese Archaeology. "On the floor, numerous human skeletons are disorderly scattered.
"The skeletons in the north-west are relatively complete, while those in the east often [have] only skulls, with limb bones scarcely remaining, but in the south, limb bones were discovered in a mess, forming two or three layers."
Another study, published in the Jilin University Journal, analysed what happened to the people who lived in this village and why they were put in the house after death.
It says that the humans were put into F40 – what the house has been dubbed – after there were more deaths in the village than villagers could handle for burial purposes.
The Jilin University team wrote: "The human bone accumulation in F40 was formed because ancient humans put remains into the house successively and stacked centrally."
They add that the burial site is similar to the one found in Miaozigou, north-east China, stating: "This similarity may indicate that the cause of the Hamin Mangha site was similar to that of the Miaozigou sites. That is, they both possibly relate to an outbreak of an acute infectious disease."
They conclude that the house ultimately burned down before the bodies could be buried.