Discovery of oldest burial in Africa sparks controversy

Diligent excavations started several years ago have resulted in a spectacular discovery. Archaeologists unearthed what would be oldest human burial in Africa. Baptized in Swahili “Mtoto”, this tomb was found at the mouth of the Panga ya Saidi cave in Kenya. She would be that of a child homo sapiens whose age would be between 2 and 3 years, buried around 75,000 years ago.

To achieve this feat, archaeologists had to face major technical problems. The bones were so fragile that they could have collapsed. Credit for the find goes to archaeologists from Museums of Kenya and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

This unprecedented discovery allows us to learn more about ritual practices during funeral ceremonies among the first humans.

An overview of funerary attitudes towards the Middle Stone Age

The position in which the fossils were unearthed suggests that Mtoto had been buried under special conditions. Archaeologists describe a child buried with his knees bent under his chin and a pillow placed under his head.

That find on African soil in a cave makes scientists think that the first men had a distinctive practice. Discoveries of relatively similar burials in caves dating back more than 60,000 years had been made in Eurasia and the Middle East.

The children’s funerals were held in a public square.

Moreover, this discovery leads to think that young people and infants were buried in public places among the first men.

“A tradition of symbolically meaningful burials, at least for the very young, may have been culturally ingrained in parts of Africa towards the end of the Middle Stone Age, which took place around 320,000 to 30,000 years old. »

Louise Humphrey of the Natural History Museum in London

The rarity of burials from this distant era leads researchers to remain cautious in their various analyzes of the funerary behavior of the first men. Many scientists believe that only new excavations could provide more certainty.


Leave a Comment