Europe’s earliest female infant burial reveals a Mesolithic society that honoured its young

An international team of researchers have uncovered the oldest documented burial of an infant girl in Arma Veirana, a cave in the Ligurian pre-Alps of north-western Italy that reveals a Mesolithic society that honoured its young.

Around 10,000 years ago during the end of the last Ice Age, a group of hunter-gatherers buried an infant girl in a cave with 60 pierced shell beads, four pendants and an eagle-owl talon. The burial offers a glimpse into the child mortuary practices of a Mesolithic society in Western Europe, that seemingly gave egalitarian funerary treatment of an infant female.

- Advertisement -

An analysis on the ornaments showed that they exhibited wear, suggesting that they were deposited by Mesolithic group members who had an invested care in each piece.

Jamie Hodgkins, PhD, palaeoanthropologist, and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver said: “The evolution and development of how early humans buried their dead as revealed in the archaeological record has enormous cultural significance.”

Previous excavations to expose the stratigraphic layers in Arma Veirana found tools over 50,000 years old that are typically associated with Neanderthals in Europe (Mousterian tools). To better understand the stratigraphy of the cave and document its occupational history, the researchers opened new sections in 2017 where they unearth the burial and carefully excavated through to 2018.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, the researchers applied Radiocarbon dating on the infant nicknamed “Neve,” that has dated her remains to 10,000 years ago. An amelogenin protein analysis and a DNA study revealed that the infant was female, belonging to a lineage of European women known as the U5b2b haplogroup.

- Advertisement -

“There’s a decent record of human burials before around 14,000 years ago,” said Hodgkins. “But the latest Upper Palaeolithic period and earliest part of the Mesolithic are more poorly known when it comes to funerary practices. Infant burials are especially rare, so Neve adds important information to help fill this gap.” Find out more

University of Colorado Denver

Header Image Credit : University of Colorado Denver


- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Revolutionary war barracks discovered at Colonial Williamsburg

Archaeologists excavating at Colonial Williamsburg have discovered a barracks for soldiers of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence.

Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought

Archaeologists have found that Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

Groundbreaking study reveals new insights into chosen locations of pyramids’ sites

A groundbreaking study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, has revealed why the largest concentration of pyramids in Egypt were built along a narrow desert strip.

Soldiers’ graffiti depicting hangings found on door at Dover Castle

Conservation of a Georgian door at Dover Castle has revealed etchings depicting hangings and graffiti from time of French Revolution.

Archaeologists find Roman villa with ornate indoor plunge pool

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Cultural Heritage have uncovered a Roman villa with an indoor plunge pool during excavations at the port city of Durrës, Albania.

Archaeologists excavate medieval timber hall

Archaeologists from the University of York have returned to Skipsea in East Yorkshire, England, to excavate the remains of a medieval timber hall.

Archaeologists find traces of Gloucester’s medieval castle

Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology have uncovered traces of Gloucester’s medieval castle in Gloucester, England.

Treasure hoard associated with hermit conman found in Świętokrzyskie Mountains

A treasure hoard associated with Antoni Jaczewiczar, a notorious hermit, conman, and false prophet, has been discovered in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains in south-central Poland.