Archaeologists have shed new light on the belief systems of early Mesolithic hunter-gatherers after analyzing cremated remains and artifacts given as grave offerings from the earliest recorded human burial site in Ireland. The team says it shows a rare and intimate glimpse of the complex funerary rituals taking place on the banks of the River Shannon at Hermitage, County Limerick, over 9,000 years ago.
The team, led by Dr. Aimée Little from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, analyzed cremated remains dating from 7530-7320 BC — the earliest recorded human burial and grave assemblage.
Unusually for such an early burial, the person's body had been cremated and then buried, rather than a simpler form of inhumation.
The Hermitage site, where researchers found Ireland's oldest known burial. Credit: Courtesy of Aimée Little
The site also featured evidence for a grave-marker; a post which would have marked the spot at which the cremated remains were buried long after the event itself.
A highly-polished stone adze interred with the remains, thought to represent the earliest known completely polished adze or axe in Europe, was revealed to have been commissioned for burial at the site.
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