Death, seen as the idea of “ending it all,” is an abstraction. To know that you will die one day is to engage in abstract thought. Animals don’t do that. If they did, we’d be in big trouble.
According to traditional meditation lore, they are in a meditative state (thukdam) until their consciousness is clear; only then does the body begins to decay. Neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson. saw it for himself, then organized a study of the phenomenon.
Perhaps the snail shell with the excisions gave an identity to “Mtoto” — a message to another world, perhaps, about who the child was. 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.
The phenomenon of terminal lucidity first attracted attention when it appeared among people who were cognitively challenged or demented (because otherwise, it might not have been noticed)
Bernardo Kastrup: I certainly believe in consciousness after death. I believe that our core subjectivity, that implicit, innate sense of “I”-ness, remains undifferentiated. That’s the reason you still think you are the same person you were when you were five years old even though everything about you has changed.
Anthropologists have gone back and forth as to whether animals grieve. They seem—almost as if intentionally—to miss the point.
The most likely explanation is that death is a process of shutting down, rather than an instant when everything stops. The genes to grow a spinal column, for example, resurfaced but maybe they had been suppressed because the deceased already had one. Still much to learn but that’s a good hypothesis to test.