The study of ancient grave florals is something that archaeologists and historians both agree can reveal valuable information. There is much to be learned about a society by researching and understanding its burials sites.
One such example are the floral grave linings in an Israeli cave date back to approximately 17,300 years ago.
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the floral decorations found in the Raqefet Cave in the coastal mountain range of Mt. Carmel by a University of Haifa excavation, were linked to the Natufian culture. This eastern Mediterranean society had organized burial sites that some say represent some of the earliest ‘cemeteries’.
Careful study of the greens led to identification of flower springs of Judean sage and possibly the mint family and a few others. These plants produce an aroma that can be used as a fragrance.
Interestingly the stems lined the graves in regular intervals. According to the study “The Natufians lined graves with a soft mud veneer and then placed on the veneer a thick cover of fresh flowering plants, thereby providing color and aromatic fragrance.”
Research and records show that cultures from 55,000 to 120,000 years ago appear to have buried their dead with purpose that included placement of animal parts, such as bones. But, the study suggests, not in an organized fashion as unearthed in this ancient site that was used by several generations.
This particular graveyard held 29 skeletons of babies, children and adults. Many of them individually interned. Experts believe that the burials occurred during the springtime when the vegetation that was used was available.
It has been suggested that the Natufian cemeteries reflect a more complex society. One that might have included elements such as the establishment of special interest groups and inheritance of property.
Cemeteries and graveyards do more than just chronicle family ancestry. They can also record societal advances. Memorials and headstones as well as items included in tombs and coffins paint a picture, so to speak. If we know how to listen, they will tell us what the living believe about death.
Photo: Contemporary Judean Sage.