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Cleaning the dead: Neolithic ritual processing of human bone at Scaloria Cave, Italy

  • John Robb (a1), Ernestine S. Elster (a2), Eugenia Isetti (a3), Christopher J. Knüsel (a4), Mary Anne Tafuri (a5) and Antonella Traverso (a6)...

Detailed taphonomic and skeletal analyses document the diverse and often unusual burial practices employed by European Neolithic populations. In the Upper Chamber at Scaloria Cave in southern Italy, the remains of some two dozen individuals had been subjected to careful and systematic defleshing and disarticulation involving cutting and scraping with stone tools, which had left their marks on the bones. In some cases these were not complete bodies but parts of bodies that had been brought to the cave from the surrounding area. The fragmented and commingled burial layer that resulted from these activities indicates complex secondary burial rites effecting the transition from entirely living to entirely dead individuals.

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