8,000-Year-Old Child Remains Discovered With No Limbs

8,000-Year-Old Child Remains Discovered With No Limbs

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8,000-Year-Old Child Remains Discovered With No Limbs

A new study found The rare burial of a young child who laid for rest 8,000 years ago without leg bones or arm was discovered by archaeologists.

On what today is Alor Island, Indonesia. The child, who was no older than 8, During the burial ceremony The long bones in the arms of the children and the legs, were taken away and removed elsewhere and part of the face of the child was painted with red ochre, a pigment often used in burials around the ancient world.

Child remains have been discovered at Makpan Cave on Alor Island in Indonesia. Left: The skeletal elements in dark grey have been documented from the burial. Right: The reconstruction of sub-adult frontal bone. The diagonal lines show the location where ochre pigment was found.

The study lead researcher Sofia Samper Carro, an archaeology lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra, said in a statement, “Occident pigment was applied on the cheeks and the forehead, and an ochre-colored cobblestone was placed underneath the head of the child.

This isn’t the only burial from this region with missing arm and leg bones. “The lack of long bones is a practice that has been documented in several other burials from a similar time period in Java, Borneo and Flores, but this is the first time we have seen it in a child’s burial,” Samper Carro said.

“We don’t know why long bone removal was practiced, but it’s likely some aspect of the belief system of the people who lived at this time.”

Archaeologists don’t know whether the child was male or female, but an analysis of their teeth and skeleton suggests the youngster likely died between the ages of 4 and 8.

However, the dental analysis suggests that the child was slightly older (6 to 8 years old), while the skeleton was so small, it looked like it belonged to a 4 to 5 year old, indicating that the child’s growth may have been stunted by genetic or environmental factors.

“We want to do some further paleo-health research to find out if this smaller skeleton is related to diet or the environment or possibly to being genetically isolated on an island,” Samper Carro said, referring to the idea that some species shrink when they live on an isolated island, such as the extinct dwarf elephants that used to live in Flores.

The child remains discovered at Makpan Cave on Alor Island in Indonesia included a fragmented mandible and cranial vault.

Granted, ancient adult skulls found on Alor are also small. And if genetics don’t explain their short stature, it’s possible nutrition played some role, Samper Carro said.

“These hunter-gatherers had a mainly marine diet and there is evidence to suggest protein saturation from a single food source can cause symptoms of malnourishment, which affects growth,” she said.

“However, they could have been eating other terrestrial resources, such as tubers.”

Whatever the researchers learn will shed light on this region’s cultural practices during the early mid-Holocene epoch, which began at the end of the last ice age about 11,500 years ago.

“Child burials are very rare, and this complete burial is the only one from this time period,” Carro said.

Child burials become more common in the archaeological record starting about 3,000 years ago, she said.

“But, with nothing from the early Holocene period, we just don’t know how people of this era treated their dead children. This find will change that.”

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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.

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