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The cremation of dead bodies , a funeral rite that began to spread through Europe about 4000 years ago, is a much more ancient practice in the middle East where, according to a study published today, Wednesday, in the journal PLOS ONE, already incineraban the dead around 9000 years ago.

The research, led by Fanny Bocquentin, of the National Center of Scientific Research of France (CNRS), has been carried out at the neolithic site of Beisamoun, in the north of Israel, where they have discovered an ancient pit ashbringer that contains the remains of a corpse that appears to have been cremated intentionally as part of a burial practice.

The dating of the remains indicate that the body was cremated between the year 7013 and 6700 BC, which makes it the most ancient example known of cremation in the Near East.

The remains, which comprise the greater part of a skeleton of a young adult, were incinerated at 500°C soon after death, and are found in a mass grave that appears to have been constructed with an open top and walls well insulated.

“there Are cremation ‘in-situ’ within a fossa pyramid of a young individual who previously survived a wound by a projectile from flint. In addition, the inventory of bones and their relative position shows that this is the deposit deliberate of a body articulated and not bones dislocated,” points Bocquentin.

In the interior of the pit were also found remains of microscopic plants that provided fuel for the fire, which for scientists is the test that confirms that it is the remnants of a cremation intentional and not a burning bush or a fire accident.

This cremation early occurred in an important period of transition in the funerary practices in this region of the world in which the old traditions, such as the extraction of the skull from the dead and burial within the settlement, began to disappear and resulted in other new, as the cremation of the corpses.

To the researchers, this change in funeral customs it could also mean a transition in the rituals surrounding death and the meaning of the deceased in the society.

A more in-depth examination of other possible places of cremation in the region will help to elucidate this important cultural change.

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