Did prehistoric humans engrave bones in a cannibalistic ritual?

Did prehistoric humans engrave bones in a cannibalistic ritual? thumbnail

Engravings on a human bone from a prehistoric archaeological site in a cave in southern England shows that human cannibals ate their prey and then performed ritualistic burials with the remains, scientists said in a study published Wednesday.

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The forearm bone appears to have been disarticulated, filleted, chewed and then engraved with a zig-zag design before being broken to extract bone marrow, said scientists from Britain’s Natural History Museum who conducted the analysis.

The finding, published in the journal PLOS ONE, adds to previous studies of bones from the site, called Gough’s Cave, thought to be from Britain’s Palaeolithic period — the early Stone Age.

People are seen inside Gough’s Cave in April 1934. Discovered in the 1880’s, Gough’s Cave in Somerset, southern England, was excavated over several decades ending in 1992. (Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Those studies confirmed human cannibalistic behaviour and showed some remains had been kept and modified, making human skulls into bowls, or “skull cups.”

The zig-zag cuts are undoubtedly engraving marks, the scientists said, and had no utilitarian purpose but were purely artistic or symbolic.



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