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Archaeology

Ancient peoples dug up the dead

SOLARI, A. et al. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 2022Remains of human bones from one of the caves in Serra da CapivaraSOLARI, A. et al. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 2022

Opening graves, digging up the dead, and then burying them again with adornments was common mortuary practice for some South American peoples. It would have been a symbolic way of reinforcing connections between the living and the dead and maintaining ancestral memories. Archaeologist Ana Solari and other researchers from the Museum of American Man examined four burial sites of peoples who lived in what is now the Serra da Capivara National Park in the state of Piauí between 6,600 and 270 years ago. Some graves contained redeposited adult human bones, extra bones, funerary offerings, remains of bonfires, and pottery fragments. In others, bones from the head or feet were missing, indicating human interference after burial. Burials carried out between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago by hunter-gatherer groups in the Lagoa Santa region of Minas Gerais also showed signs of deliberate post-burial manipulation and the addition of further bodies (Latin American Antiquity, April 19).

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