Cave site in Kenya reveals the oldest human burial in Africa

7 May 2021

Africa is often referred to as the cradle of humankind – the birthplace of our species, Homo sapiens.

An artist’s impression of Mtoto’s burial. Fernando Fueyo, Author provided

There is evidence of the development of early symbolic behaviours such as pigment use and perforated shell ornaments in Africa, but so far most of what we know about the development of complex social behaviours such as burial and mourning has come from Eurasia. 

However, the remains of a child buried almost 80,000 years ago under an overhang at Panga ya Saidi cave in Kenya is providing important new details. 

Working with a team of researchers from Kenya, Germany, Spain, France, Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, we studied the burial. Our results, published in Nature today, reveal valuable insights into human cultural evolution, including how Middle Stone Age populations interacted with the dead.

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