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World’s oldest burial reveals emotions of early man

Published: Updated:

The discovery of the oldest known human burial site in Kenya that dates to around 78,000 years ago for the first time sheds light on emotional abilities of the early Homo sapiens, according to a Kenyan official.

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“The age of the child is 2-3 years. That is what we approximate based on the dental formula, and also the sediment itself has bee dated to 78,000 years and that actually falls within the time frame of Homo Sapiens or anatomically modern human beings. So these are people just like you and me,” Emmanuel Ndiema, head of archaeology at National Museums of Kenya told Reuters in an interview.

Previous archaeological discoveries, he said, only helped researchers understand technological, sustenance and environmental aspects of early man’s living.

“That kind of a burial position tells us something about the...that it was intentionally put there as it is for the first time that we are beginning to get a feel of the cognitive and also the emotional. We are getting a glimpse of the cognitive and the emotional abilities at this point in time. For a very long time we have only been looking at the technology, the subsistence, the environment. But we are beginning to understand now these people having some emotional attachments to the dead, that they can be able to intentionally bury them,” he said.

Last week scientists announced they had have found the oldest-known human burial - of a young child - at a cave site called Panga ya Saidi near the Kenyan coast. They nicknamed the youngster ‘Mtoto,’ meaning ‘child’ in Swahili.

The child, whose gender remains unclear, was placed in the grave in a flexed position, the body lying on its right side, with knees drawn toward the chest, according to the researchers.

Ndyema said the discovery also shows early Homo Sapiens lived in different parts of Kenya, contradicting a long standing narrative that suggested early humans only settled in the rift valley in Kenya’s west.

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