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How we die can tell us a lot about how we live.
Ancient burials, in turn, shed light on prehistoric beliefs about ritual, religion, and social hierarchies.
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports on December 14, they describe her remains as the oldest-known burial of a female infant found in Europe.
Dominique Meyer image
Her grave was unearthed in the Arma Veriana cave in Italy.
When she died, the Ice Age was nearing its end. Humans were adjusting to drastic environmental changes.
This was the Mesolithic era, and with the changing climate, there were likely shifting societal concerns, too.
Jamie Hodkins, PhD, CU Denver USAGE RESTRICTIONS
But burial sites dating to the early Mesolithic period are rare.
Nicknamed “Neve,” the infant was surrounded by intricate, carved, shell beads and an ornate claw. Her caretakers may have viewed her as an individual and worthy of respect.
“Child funerary treatment provides important insights into who was considered a person and thereby afforded the attributes of an individual self, moral agency, and eligibility for group membership.”
Hodkins et. al., study authors
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The beads and amulets are worn looking, so the researchers think the beads were given to the child while she was alive; possibly handed down by relatives.
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Older research suggests early hunter-gatherer societies in Europe didn’t decorate the graves of one sex more than the other.
Neve’s burial adds evidence to suggest female and male members of Mesolithic societies in Europe were considered equals.