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The oldest burial site in the world is 200,000 years old and was not built by humans

The oldest burial site in the world is 200,000 years old and was not built by humans

Paleontologists in South Africa say they have found the world's oldest known burial site, which contains the remains of a small-brained distant relative of ours, previously thought to be incapable of complex behaviour.

Researchers, led by renowned paleontologist Lee Berger, announced in 2023 that they had found several specimens of Homo naledi — tree-climbing, Stone Age hominins — buried about 30 meters deep in the ground. In the cave system In the Cradle of Humanity, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Johannesburg.

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“The oldest hominid burials to date, at least 100,000 years before evidence of Homo sapiens burials.”

– wrote the scientists in a series of studies published in the journal eLife.

The findings challenge the current understanding of human evolution, as it is generally believed that greater brain development enabled complex and “meaningful” activities such as burying the dead.

a Previously explored The oldest burials found in the Middle East and Africa contained the remains of Homo sapiens and were about 100,000 years old. Berger's excavations in South Africa, whose previous announcements have sparked controversy, date back at least 200,000 years.

Most importantly, they belong to Homo naledi, a primitive species in the transition between apes and modern humans that had brains the size of an orange and stood about 1.5 meters tall.

With curved fingers and toes, and hands and feet holding tools, the species discovered by Berger have already upended the view that our evolutionary path was a straight line.

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The oval-shaped burials, which are the focus of the new studies, were also found here during excavations that began in 2018. According to the researchers, the holes were deliberately dug and then filled in to cover the bodies containing at least five individuals.

“These discoveries show that burial practices were not limited to Homo sapiens or other hominins with large brains.”

– said the researchers.

The burial site is not the only sign that Homo naledi was capable of complex emotional and cognitive behavior, as various geometric shapes carved into stone were also found nearby.

source: Scientific alert

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