About 34,000 years ago, a group of hunters and gatherers buried their dead — including two boys with physical conditions — using the utmost care. However, these dead were buried in fairly different ways, a new study finds.
In contrast, the remains of a roughly 40-year-old man, an individual who would have had more time and physical ability to contribute to the group, had far fewer treasures: about 3,000 mammoth ivory beads, 12 pierced fox canines, 25 mammoth ivory arm bands and a stone pendant.
"From the point of view of the mortuary behavior, the burial of the adult is, in fact, very different from the burial of the children," study co-lead researcher Erik Trinkaus, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, told Live Science.
Researchers have known about the Sunghir burials for about half a century. The burials, which date to the Mid Upper Palaeolithic, are located on the northeast outskirts of Vladimir, Russia, and were excavated from 1957 to 1977.
In total, there are 10 men and women buried at Sunghir, but the two boys have, by far, the most spectacular riches of the lot, the researchers said. The boys also have physical conditions that likely limited the individuals during their short lives.
Both boys experienced repeated periods of extreme stress, according to an analysis of their dental enamel, the study said. What's more, the 10-year-old boy's thighbones are "exceptionally bowed and short," Trinkaus and co-lead researcher Alexandra Buzhilova, an anthropologist at Lomonosov Moscow State University, in Russia, wrote in the study. But otherwise, the young boy was physically active, an analysis of his skeleton showed.
|Photos showing the adult man and his ochre-stained skull. Notice an incision in his neck vertebra (white arrow) -|
an injury that likely led to his immediate death [Credit: N.O. Bader and E. Trinkaus; Antiquity 2018]
It's possible the group was feeding the 12-year-old boy soft foods, such as porridge, but "it is really bizarre to have an individual who looks like he was bedridden in a group of hunters and gatherers who were extremely mobile," Trinkaus said.
These two boys aren't the only people with disabilities known to have received burials during this time period. "Indeed, in the Mid Upper Palaeolithic, individuals with marked developmental or degenerative abnormalities are relatively common in the burial record, accounting for a third of the sufficiently well-preserved individuals," the researchers wrote in the study.
What really caught the researchers' attention was the diversity of the burial artifacts. Some people had only a few fox canines and mammoth ivory beads, while other individuals didn't have anything. This indicates social complexity, because it shows that people were treated differently in death, and probably in life, too, Trinkaus said.
|The 10-year-old boy had ivory beads and ochre on the upper part of his hip bones, known as the|
ilia. Next to it is the thighbone of an adult that was placed in the 12-year-old boy's grave
[Credit: E. Trinkaus; Antiquity 2018]
"In this case, adolescents — people with disabilities or pathologies that would have limited their full functioning — are getting some amazing treatment," Straus told Live Science.
The study was published in the journal Antiquity.
Author: Laura Geggel | Source: LiveScience [February 20, 2018]