Anthropology

9,000-year-old ritualized decapitation found in Brazil

A 9,000 year-old case of human decapitation has been found in the rock shelter of Lapa do Santo in Brazil, according to a study by André Strauss from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany and colleagues.

An archaeological site called Lapa do Santo, located in east-central Brazil, contains evidence of human occupation dating back to ~12,000 years ago. In 2007, researchers found fragments of a buried body, Burial 26, including a cranium, jaw, the first six cervical vertebrae, and two severed hands at the site.

They dated the remains back to ~9,000 years ago using accelerator mass spectrometry. The researchers found amputated hands laid over the face of the skull arranged opposite each other and observed v-shaped cut marks on the jaw and sixth cervical vertebra.

This is a schematic representation of Burial 26 from Lapa do Santo. CREDIT :  Drawing by Gil Tokyo.

This is a schematic representation of Burial 26 from Lapa do Santo. CREDIT : Drawing by Gil Tokyo.

Based on strontium analysis comparing Burial 26’s isotopic signature to other specimens from Lapa do Santo, the researchers suggest Burial 26 was likely a local member of the group. Additionally, the presentation of the remains, lead the authors to think that this was likely a ritualized decapitation instead of trophy-taking.

If this is the case, these remains may demonstrate sophisticated mortuary rituals among hunter-gatherers in the Americas during this time period.

The authors think this may be the oldest case of decapitation found in the New Word, leading to a re-evaluation of the previous interpretations of this practice, particularly with regards to its origins and geographic dispersion.

Find out more : http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137456

PLOS

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