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The First Tomb to Which Brought Flowers, 13,000 Years Ago

Discovered in Israel several burial of the Stone Age with sage and mint leaves, the earliest known example of this practice in a ceremony.

One of the tombs, with a man and a child, covered with flowers


The widespread custom to bring flowers to the funeral may be much older than previously thought. Researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel found traces of colorful and aromatic plants in tombs of the Stone Age culture belonging to the Natufian , a town that was developed in the Eastern Mediterranean region between 13,000 and 9800 years BC. They were the ancestors of the first farmers in the world and now seem to have been the first to put flowers on a grave.

It is difficult to establish when the flowers begin to use public events and ceremonies, due to the paucity of evidence in the archaeological record. But in a cave in Carmel, a mountainous region in northern Israel, researchers found four graves of between 13,700 and 11,700 years old that had been covered with flowers. One of them has a couple unusual for a child and an adult male.

Scientists identified the traces of sage, mint and other herbaceous plants in the mud around the bodies. As published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, this is solid evidence the earliest use of plants in funeral ceremonies. There is only another example even older in Neanderthal grave Shanidar IV in northern Iraq, 50,000 years ago, but the authors believe to be questionable.

A sophisticated process

The plants were placed together and under the bodies, as if it were literally a flower bed. It formed a layer thick enough to prevent other objects from the tomb leave their own footprints in the mud. “Maybe they (the Natufian) were not thinking about the grave condition to be comfortable, but on the effect that would have on flowers mourners,” says Daniel Nadel, archaeologist study coauthor in NewScientist magazine. The goal would be very similar to the present at the funeral, as flowering plants stimulate positive social and emotional responses in humans.

Researchers believe that the preparation of the graves was a planned process and sophisticated, full of social and spiritual meanings that reflect or na pre-agricultural complex society was experiencing profound changes at the end of the Pleistocene. The Natufian were one of the first known prehistoric people to bury their dead in cemeteries near the huts in which they lived, and not in isolated graves. In their burials often appears grave goods, such as beads, red ocher and stone tools. In addition, there is evidence that feasting as part of the funeral.

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