Sunghir: What the strange paleolithic burial site tells us about ancient humans


Around 34,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers who roamed the Russian plains started to bury their dead at the site of Sunghir, about 200 kilometers east of what is today Moscow.

[T]he site has never ceased to fascinate archaeologists. The mortuary site contains extremely elaborate burials of an adult male covered in beads and ochre (a red clay earth pigment), and a juvenile and an adolescent, approximately 10 and 12 years old, buried head to head.


Exploring this complexity and the diverse ways with which these ancient people seemed to have thought about and treated their dead at Sunghir could open a new window into the complex social world of some of the first Homo sapiens in Europe.

These analyses have led the authors to conclude that at least three different forms of burials were practiced at Sunghir.


The contrast between lavish burials and isolated skeletal elements at the site also suggests that there was some kind of differentiation between individuals during their lifetimes that was then reflected in death. Although it is not clear what the social structure of these people looked like or how it was determined, the evidence at Sunghir suggests that individuals didn’t necessarily acquire a status through their actions. Something else may have determined their position within their communities and how they were eventually treated in death.

Read full, original post: Why This Paleolithic Burial Site Is So Strange (and So Important)

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