Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in cave

Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in cave

Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in cave

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The discovery took place in a cave in France containing remains of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who died about thirty thousand years ago. The Grotte de Cussac, first discovered 20 years ago, is located in the southwest of the country. Frequented by members of theGravettian culture of the European Upper Paleolithic, finding shed fresh light on Paleolithic humans’ burial rituals.

French cave: Grotte de Cussac cave is located in the southwest of the country

The group left evidence scattered across Europe about 33,000 years ago. The culture has become famous among archaeologists, particularly due to the prolific cave arts “Venus” portraying voluptuous female figures and elaborate burial rituals.

The cave was studied by the researchers and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. Here, an international team has analyzed the remains of the caves using 3D rendering and photographs.

They concluded that the site provided a “unique” setting for the dead in the Paleolithic. Previous papers had reported the presence of human remains inside the cave.

Ancient humans: The Carnac Neolithic standing stones in western France erected by pre-Celtic people
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However, the newest study is the first to provide a detailed description of all of them and a comprehensive analysis of the mortuary behaviours that led to the particular distribution of the bones.

Contact with the cave’s surfaces is prohibited, forcing researchers to use indirect examination techniques.

The researchers reported that the cave contained two areas of human remains.

The first included the skeleton of a young adult male in a shallow depression that was once a bear nest, as well as the fragmentary remains of at least two other individuals spread across two other former bear nests.

Deeper in the cave, the second area, containing the remains of at least three individuals—two adults and an adolescent—in hollows along a wall, which appeared to be sorted largely by lower and upper anatomy.

Some of the bones and underlying sediments featured a red pigment that the researchers have linked to the remains.

Many of the burials were similar to traits discovered in other Gravettian sites.

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But the authors of the paper say a handful of characteristics appear unique to this ancient culture.

For example, the researchers said the remains were found much further inside the cave than is typical and are associated with abundant rock art— an unusual feature for Gravettian burial sites — with the cave containing more than 800 engravings.

“These human remains are located deep in the cave, which is a unique finding for this period—all previously known Gravettian burials are located in open air sites, rockshelters, or cave entrances,” Sacha Kacki, with the French National Center for Scientific Research, told Newsweek.

He added: “The Grotte de Cussac is not only a burial place, but also a decorated cave. It is quite rare that Gravettian human remains are found close to (cave) art, and the Grotte de Cussac is the first discovered cave where the mortuary rites and the art are very likely contemporaneous.”

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According to the authors, the findings shed new light on the burial practices of Gravettian hunter-gatherers, providing evidence of significant social complexity during the Upper Paleolithic (roughly 50,000 to 12,000 years ago.)

Mr Kacki said: “Most of the human remains in Cussac are disarticulated due to human manipulations of bones or body parts after or during decomposition.

“Although post-mortem manipulations of human remains have been previously documented for other Gravettian sites, some types of manipulations at Cussac are unknown elsewhere, including the removal of crania and the deliberate commingling of the remains of several individuals.

“These observations indicate diverse and complex mortuary behaviors during the Gravettian, which provides a window onto the social complexity of human groups from the Upper Paleolithic.”

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