The values and lifestyles of past societies are often revealed to anthropologists and archaeologists through their relationship with death and the burial of the dead. This is an essential feature of human cultural systems, and part of this relationship involves the manipulation, retrieval, and reburial of bodies after an individual’s death. Now, some new evidence from Spanish caves shows that early humans may have returned to burial sites to make tools from bones and perhaps extract bone marrow for food. For more information on the survey results, please visit The study was published September 20 in an open access journal Pro Swan.
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Caves along the Iberian Peninsula were not only hotspots for Neanderthal crab cooking, but also places for burying the dead and modifying human remains for thousands of years. The use of caves for burials is a common practice in several modern countries, and began to become more common in Portugal and Spain around 4,000 BC. Archaeological sites in the region show evidence that human remains were later processed for other uses, but the cultural meaning behind these changes remains largely unknown.
Bioarchaeologist Zita Laffranchi of the University of Bern, anthropologist Marco Mirella, and archaeologist Rafael M. Martínez Sánchez of the University of Córdoba co-authored the study, which suggests that the underground and dark features of the cave could be traced to ancient humans. We believe that it is highly likely that they provided a suitable place for a residence. remain.
“Such characteristics are shared by ancient Neolithic agricultural societies in the Iberian Peninsula, Europe, and other parts of the world as part of a transcultural response system to death. Even after death, communities remain grouped together in subterranean spaces that are interpreted as permanent projections of the environment of eternal night. The study authors wrote in an interview accompanying the paper:.
inside new research, the team investigated human remains from the Cueva de los Marmores cave in southern Spain. They examined the bones of at least 12 people. Radiocarbon dating dated the burial site to between the 5th and 2nd millennium BC, approximately the Neolithic to Bronze Age of the area. Most of the items unearthed in this study were excavated between 1998 and 2018. These include an assiduously carved human skull cup, a tibia bone that appears to have been modified for use as a tool, and dozens of other bone fragments found within the approximately 27,000 square meter site. foot cave.
New evidence suggests some remain May have been intentionally broken and carved out for bone marrow Up to 1 year after the death of the marmoles individual. The research team focused on intentional alterations made to the remains after death, such as the bones containing some fractures and abrasions. These cuts may have resulted from efforts to harvest bone marrow or other tissue from bones for edible or practical use.
They were initially surprised by the length of time the cave had been used for funerary rituals.
“This suggests that Marmores was an iconic landmark for the human community living in the area, and that specific funerary traditions were likely to have existed.” the authors wrote. “Second, the most interesting aspect of our findings was the complex treatment of the remains, which is often difficult to interpret, but which clearly reveals fairly homogeneous behavior and well-defined traditions and belief systems. is showing.”
[Related: Extinct human cousins may have beaten us to inventing burial rituals.]
These results Matches other cave ruins in the area, shows that burying human remains in caves and later modifying them to use them as food or tools was a common and common practice. It is also possible that these body modifications have further symbolic purposes, but these are still unknown and require further research.
The authors say that next steps include continuing archaeological studies of the site and adding more radiocarbons to skeletal remains that may be unearthed in the future at Marmoles and other burial caves in the region. It states that this includes applying analysis, anthropological analysis, and zooarchaeological analysis.