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Diversity and differential disposal of the dead at Sunghir

  • Erik Trinkaus (a1) and Alexandra P. Buzhilova (a2)

Understanding the Palaeolithic emergence of human social complexity opens up a key perspective on later periods of cultural evolution. Palaeolithic mortuary practice is particularly revealing, as it echoes the social statuses of both the living and the dead. The famous Sunghir burials fall at the beginning of this sequence. Bioarchaeological analysis of the Sunghir individuals, viewed in the context of earlier Upper Palaeolithic mortuary behaviour more generally, reveals the concurrent practice of a range of funerary treatments, some of which are probably related to individual pathological abnormalities. Through this approach, the Sunghir burials become more than just an example of elaborate Palaeolithic burial, and highlight the diversity of early social and mortuary behaviours.

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