An international team of archeologists has uncovered the oldest known human burial in Africa following years of excavations.
Archeologists identified the burial site after uncovering the remains of a child dating 78,000 years ago at the mouth of the Panga ya Saidi cave site in Kenya.
“The site is truly one of a kind. Repeated seasons of excavation at Panga ya Saidi have now helped to establish it as a key type site for the East African coast, with an extraordinary 78,000-year record of early human cultural, technological and symbolic activities,” Professor Nicole Boivin, who was the principal investigator of the project, said in a statement.
According to the study published in the science journal Nature on May 5, the remains belonged to a human child aged between two and a half years to three years old, who the researchers named “Mtoto,” meaning “child” in Swahili.
The team of archeologists from Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany and from the National Museums of Kenya began the excavations in 2010 and first found parts of the child’s bones in 2013. Then in 2017, the small pit that contained the bones was fully exposed.
“This find opens up questions about the origin and evolution of mortuary practices between two closely related human species, and the degree to which our behavior’s and emotions differ from one another,” Professor Michael Petraglia said in a statement.
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