Home U.S Oldest human burial discovered in Africa sheds light on 78,000-year-old burial practices

Oldest human burial discovered in Africa sheds light on 78,000-year-old burial practices

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An artist’s interpretation of the burial of a 3-year-old child in Africa 78,000 years ago.
  • The child, estimated to have been around three years old, seems to have been carefully arranged in a deliberately excavated pit.
  • The site of the burial is in modern-day Panga ya Saidi, in Kenya, north of Mombasa.
  • “It’s incredibly rare that we gain access to such a snapshot of a moment in time, especially one so very ancient.”

Scientists have uncovered the earliest modern human burial in Africa, which changes what we know about social behaviors in Homo sapiens, according to a new study.

The discovery offers new insight into how these ancient people from 78,000 years ago treated their dead.

The child, estimated to have been about 3 years old, seems to have been carefully arranged in a deliberately excavated pit and then covered by sediment scooped up from the cave floor, the journal Nature reported Wednesday.

The arrangement of surviving bone fragments indicates that the body was placed on its side with legs drawn up to its chest, the study found.

These features – along with evidence that the body was rapidly covered and decomposed – indicate that the burial was intentional.

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