A new study conducted in Spain revealed that a Neolithic burial site in the area had contained remains of a closely related local settlement from 6,000 years ago. This discovery sheds light on the burial traditions of ancient humans.
Experts believe that the Neolithic people have introduced new burial rituals in modern-day Europe. Usually, burial sites were made of stone and were large enough to hold many bodies.
Neolithic people constructed megalithic tombs, which were used as collective burial sites and locations for ritual acts.
Scientists were particularly interested in a megalithic tomb in Burgos, Northern Spain because it had been originally made from wood. A stone mound was then erected over it afterwards.
Led by Kurt W. Alt of Danube Private University in Austria, the team examined this particular megalithic tomb at Alto de Reinoso to create a comprehensive image of this Neolithic community. Alt and his colleagues used genetics, archeological analysis, isotope analysis and bone analysis in order to do so.
Close-Knit Neolithic Families
Researchers identified at least 47 adolescents and adults from the remains in the tomb. These skeletons had been buried for over a hundred years.
Based on isotope and genetic analysis, scientists suggest that the tomb contained a series of close-knit families from a local group that had lived between 3700 and 3600 AD, and had spanned for about three to four generations. The individuals' may have farmed cereal crops, as well as goats and sheep, for a living.
The megalithic tomb was comprised of three distinct layers. The skeletons at the bottom of the megalithic tomb were more closely related. Occasionally, some family members were buried side-by-side.
Above, almost all the skeletons had missing parts such as lost skulls. Scientists say these were signs of manipulation, indicating a change in the use of the tomb.
"[This] could be due to a certain kind of ancestral worship," says University of Valladolid Professor Manuel Rojo Guerra.
Even though the team's conclusions depend on underlying assumptions about the Neolithic society, they say their study may be the first to offer such an in-depth picture of this particular community in life and in death.
Meanwhile, Alt says all the data they extensively gathered – demographics, lifestyle, health status, mobility patterns, diet and subsistence, as well as the genetic profile of the group – match with the typical way of life of farming populations during the Neolithic.
Alt and his colleagues' findings are featured in the journal PLoS ONE.
Other Information About The Neolithic Era
As such, urban civilizations had risen from this period, in which the prehistoric humans fashioned metal tools and had learned to write in varying methods.
Ancient humans who had lived during the Neolithic Era depended on domesticated plants and animals, lived in settlements within permanent villages, reshaped stone tools by grinding or polishing and were skilled in crafts such as weaving and pottery.