The lovingly prepared site on the Kenyan coast held the remains of a 2–3 year-old child:
A child’s grave, found recently in Kenya, pushes clear evidence of abstract thinking back to 80,000 years ago, the Middle Stone Age. The child, nicknamed “Mtoto” (child in Swahili) by the archaeologists, was 2½ – 3 years old; whether a boy or a girl is as yet unclear…
“In a tour de force of discovery, recovery, and analysis, an interdisciplinary research team has uncovered the earliest known human burial in Africa. The grave, found less than 10 miles inland from southeast Kenya’s lush ocean beaches, contained the remains of a two- to three-year-old child buried with extraordinary care by a community of early Homo sapiens some 78,000 years ago. While some human burials in the Middle East and Europe are older, the find in Africa provides one of the earliest unequivocal examples anywhere of a body interred in a pit prepared for that purpose and covered with earth.” JAMIE SHREVE, “CHILD’S GRAVE IS THE OLDEST HUMAN BURIAL FOUND IN AFRICA” AT NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (MAY 6, 2021) …
Death, as applied to ourselves, is an abstraction as well as a reality. When we say that the dead do not come back to life or that everyone dies or wonder what happens to our minds after death, we are dealing in abstractions. The rituals around death that help us grieve embody these abstractions. Items buried with the deceased (grave goods) may be merely fond remembrances but they may also be things that mourners think the deceased might need in another life — stone tools, for example. Jewelry may just be jewelry but it may also be good luck charms or amulets, to ward off evil. Perhaps the snail shell with the excisions gave an identity to “Mtoto” — a message to another world, perhaps, about who the child was.News, “Death: Child grave from 80,000 years ago shows abstract thinking” at Mind Matters News
Takehome: As more burials are found, we will start to get more answers. For example, if a number of such graves feature shells or similar objects with excisions, we can infer a symbolic intention.
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