07-05-2021 by redazione
If it is true that the remains of the first prehistoric woman have been found between Kenya and Ethiopia, and on the Tanzanian border those of the first hominid, the incredible new discovery by Spanish researchers takes us right to the Kenyan coast, not far from the shores of the Indian Ocean.
In the quarries of Panga Ya Saidi, some fifteen kilometres inside the Kilifi inlet, the first evidence of human burial in Africa has been found, datable to around 78 thousand years ago.
This discovery is extremely important in providing scholars with fundamental clues to understand when and how our ancestors began to develop the cult of the dead, to understand the concept of earthly abandonment and to mourn and remember their loved ones.
The remains found at Kilifi are those of a child of about 3 years old, who has been nicknamed 'Mtoto' (Swahili for 'child'). According to studies that refer to excavations that began in 2010 and whose developments were published in the journal 'Nature', it is a homo sapiens who lived in the Stone Age. At Panga Ya Saidi, the first human tools from that period on the entire continent had already been found and studied, confirming the dating of the findings.
The tomb of Mtoto was located in the centre of the excavation site and was identified because after the first inspections, palaeontologists from the National Centre for Research on Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, realised that it contained sediments of a different colour from those in the surrounding area.
The published studies show that Mtoto had not been deposited there by chance, but that a 'bed' had been built around him, with a pillow made of perishable material under his head. The child was lying on his side huddled up with his knees towards his chest, the skeleton was quite intact, which reveals that the body had decomposed in a closed grave and that the body had been wrapped in a covering of leather or plant material.
The discovery of the Kilifi burial suggests that we can go even further back in the cult of the dead by Sapiens and Neanderthals. A few years ago in Ethiopia, remains of skulls and bones were found which had been worked and polished, a sign that there were already rituals connected with the dead, even if not exactly associated with grief over the loss of loved ones.
In Europe and Asia, the first cemeteries date back 120,000 years.
Before the discovery of Mtoto, the earliest known African burials were at Taramsa, Egypt (69,000 years ago) and Border Cave, South Africa (74,000 years ago). Of note is the fact that graves containing very young human beings were found at all these sites. It can be assumed that the bodies of children received special treatment in our prehistory.
Kenya's potential in the field of archaeological research is well known, even if above all it is those of earth, mainly connected to the important findings that concern our proto-antheniated in the area of Lake Turkana.
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