CM – Africa’s oldest human grave excavated: 3 years old, buried 78,000 years ago

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A child no older than three years who was laid to rest in an earthen tomb 78,000 years ago. The legs are carefully leaned against the tiny chest. This is the earliest known human burial in Africa, researchers reported Wednesday.

The sunken pit in a cave complex on the coast of Kenya did not contain any ornaments, offerings, or ocher clay carvings found in the region’s newer Stone Age tombs, such as in the journal Nature.

But « Mtoto » – Swahili for « child » – had been wrapped in a shroud with her or his head on a pillow, « suggesting that the congregation may have some form of funeral rite « said lead author Maria Martinon-Torres, director of the National Research Center for Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain.

The extraordinary find underscores the emergence of both complex social behaviors in Homo sapiens and cultural differences between the populations of modern humans in Africa and beyond.

Fragments of the child’s bones were discovered in 2013 i Excavated in the Panga ya Saidi caves, it wasn’t until five years later that the shallow, circular tomb – ten feet below the cave floor – was fully exposed, revealing a tight cluster of decomposed bones.

« At that point we weren’t sure what we found, « said Emmanuel Ndiema of the National Museum of Kenya. « The bones were just too delicate to study in the field. »

Archaeologists stabilized and plastered them in a bundle and transported them first to the museum and then to the research center in Spain.

« The articulation of the spine and the ribs were also amazingly well preserved, with even the curvature of the thoracic cage being preserved. « 

Subsequent microscopic analysis and luminescence dating confirmed that Mtoto’s tiny body was carefully covered with dirt from around the pit and lasted for almost 80,000 years rested undisturbed.

Homo sapiens is native to Africa, but little is known about burial practices on the continent compared to Europe and the Middle East, where even older human burial sites have been discovered, including one in Israel believed to be that it is 120,000 years old.

Interestingly, burials of infants and children account for almost half of all en burials from this period to the end of the Mesolithic about 30,000 years ago.

The same applies to our genetic cousins, the Neanderthals, whose ritual burials in Eurasia go back at least half a million years.

« Burials, at where the body is in a hunched position are very common. It’s difficult to know exactly why, « said Martinon-Torres.

 » Some researchers have argued that it is practical to place the bodies in a smaller space, but you can also see it that way putting the child into a sleeping position, « she continued.

 » Being wrapped up while lying in this fetal position could somehow be a way to transfer some human warmth in such a cold moment. « </ The limited number of known early human burial sites in Africa could reflect the relative lack of archaeological research, experts say.

Or environmental conditions: those so far are in the arid north and temperate southern Africa Conservation.

Stone Age graves often reveal the beginnings of culture, especially when they indicate « a shift from purely practical motivations to more meaningful treatment of the dead, » noted Louse Humphrey, a researcher at the Center for Human Evolution at the Natural History Museum in London.

« These measures include carefully placing the corpse in the grave to achieve a desired body position or orientation, wrapping or tying the body from others Reasons than in support of the transport or the deliberate bringing of valuables into the grave, « she said in a comment, also in nature.

The new finding and an almost as distant child burial site in South Africa suggest that a tradition of symbolically significant burials, at least for very young people, could have been culturally anchored in Africa in the later part of the Mesolithic, « she wrote.

(With the exception of the heading, this story was not edited and posted by NDTV staff published in a syndicated feed.)

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