National Geographic has recently reported the discovery of one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe. The graves of this first gravesite , it is suggested, which are located near Berlin, date back to about 8400 years ago.
According to writer Andrew Curry, there is much excitement about the find. Perhaps, he writes, the more intriguing skeletons found are those of a six month old baby and that of a man who was buried upright.
What makes this so fascinating, Curry wrote was that it was rare for the Mesolithic to find multiple graves in one place. Forensic anthropologist Bettina Jungklaus, who excavated one of the bodies, said, “They were mobile people, ranging over the landscape.”
The hilltop cemetery of this possible first gravesite, Gross Fredenwalde, is said to have been created during the Mesolithic period of hunters-gathers. A total of nine skeletons have been uncovered. Researchers believe there are more graves to excavate.
Some Interesting Facts:
- Earlier excavations of the prehistoric graveyard reveal a hard, rocky soil that would have been hard to dig in.
- Archaeologists say the burials are evidence of careful planning.
- The infant skeleton the earliest ever found in Germany, and one of the oldest in Europe.
- Bones and nearby soil stained from ochre pigment were used to decorate the body for burial.
- Buried more than 1,000 years after the infant, a man was entombed standing up, together with bone tools and flint knives.
- The man’s grave was filled just as far as the man’s knees at first. His upper body was allowed to partially decay and fall apart before the grave was filled in.
- The hilltop cemetery was in use for more than a millennium. Unique for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
No doubt continued studies will reveal a great deal about the climate and the diet of these people as they evolved. It will also offer more insights into the development of burial practices – often influenced by cultural expansions and mergers.
To learn more, click here.