Caves in Spain contain ancient human remains that were modified – study

Ancient human remains that were buried in caves in Spain have been shown to be modified prior to their burial, according to a recent study.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday last week, examines the Cueva de los Marmoles, one of the most important cave contexts from southern Spain.

The significance of this cave is that it “returned a large number of commingled skeletal remains suggesting its funerary use from the Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age,” the study said. However, the reason why these buried remains were modified still remains a mystery to researchers.

Researchers in the study also explored the fragmentation patterns that characterized different skeletal regions and took both macroscopic and microscopic analyses of whatever modifications were made to the human remains.

Radiocarbon data

The study concluded that through radiocarbon data, the remains date back several millennia, and also estimates that the minimum amount of people’s remains discovered number up to 12 – seven adults and five children. The research does acknowledge that caves have been used as burial sites in the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years, with its practice being originated in the 4th millennium BCE.

Red ocher markings which were painted on stalagmites by Neanderthals about 65,000 years ago, according to an international study, are seen in a prehistoric cave in Ardales, southern Spain, August 7, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/JON NAZCA)

Researchers conclude based on the lack of elements from the remains’ hands and feet that the individuals were already decomposed when they were originally placed in the cave.

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