Scientists find Africa's oldest human burial, a child from 78,000 years ago - CNET
May 06, 2021 1 min, 15 secs
The discovery of a deliberately buried toddler may offer new insights into the Middle Stone Age, a key period in the human timeline.

A cluster of 78,000-year-old bones found at the mouth of a Kenyan cave represent the earliest known human burial in Africa, shedding light on how our ancient ancestors interacted with the dead. .

The bones of the toddler, whom scientists nicknamed Mtoto ("child" in Swahili), come from the Panga ya Saidi cave complex in coastal southeast Kenya.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers from Germany's Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the National Museums of Kenya detail how they came to conclude, through microscopic analysis of the bones and the surrounding soil, that the skeleton in a cave's shallow circular pit belonged to a child who'd intentionally been laid to rest. .

"Deliberate burial of the dead is so far confined to just Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, setting us apart from all other ancient hominins, and any other animal," Nicole Boivin, an archaeological scientist and director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, tells me.

"Study of mortuary and burial practices gives us insight into the evolution of our own species, our thoughts, emotions and cosmological beliefs, and what it means to be human."  .

The origin and evolution of human mortuary practices are subjects of intense interest and debate, as they can help reconstruct the past by illuminating details on cognition, migration, social strata, disease, religion and more

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