A mysterious ancient cemetery that has puzzled Finnish archaeologists for decades may be one of the largest Stone Age cemeteries in northern Europe, new research suggests.
Located in Tainiaro, on the edge of the Arctic Circle with long, harsh winters, the site was first excavated in 1959 and re-examined in the late 1980s, but the results never saw the light of day.
Thousands of artifacts have been described, and archaeologists later discovered that the sandy soil was gray and red with ocher streaks.
But no human remains have been found in Tainiaro’s dozens of shallow holes, leaving researchers wondering what drew the people to the forested shores of a near-Arctic estuary. .
Now, a new analysis of the site, led by archaeologist Aki Hakonen from the University of Oulu in Finland, shows that the site was used as a cemetery and that up to 200 burial pits were dug by Stone Age communities around 6,500 years ago. This reinforced the idea that there is a possibility of It is also known for its nomadic foraging lifestyle.
“Although no skeletal material remains at Tainiaro, in our opinion it should be considered a cemetery,” Hakonen and colleagues write in their paper.
To reach this conclusion, the team scoured old records at the site to relocate previously excavated trenches, excavated several more trenches, and compared the pit’s shape, size, and contents to other sites in Finland. Comparisons were made with other Stone Age burial sites at the site. .
The bones buried in the area’s acidic soil can rot over thousands of years, but thousands of stone artifacts, pottery shards, and a few burnt animal bones have been preserved and scattered throughout the site. It was found that there was.
Most pits contained traces of ash and charcoal, but not as many as the thick layers of burnt material excavated in Stone Age hearths elsewhere. Occasional red ocher stripes were visible elsewhere, but not enough to indicate that the cavity was a ceremonial burial plot.
However, the shape and size of Tainiaro’s hole closely matched hundreds of Stone Age graves found in 14 cemeteries in northern Europe. Many of Tainiaro’s holes were shallow rectangles with rounded corners, 1.5 to 2 meters long and approximately 0.5 meters deep.
Based on those comparisons, the team interpreted 44 of the estimated 200 pits to be tombs, but only a fifth of the sites have been excavated so far, so further research could reveal more. may be revealed.
If these pits are actually graves numbering in the hundreds, it suggests that Stone Age societies living near the North Pole were probably larger than previously thought. Other nearby cemeteries are much smaller and contain about 20 burial pits, Hakonen said.
The research team plans to use ground-penetrating radar to survey the site without disturbing it. Hakonen says soil samples could also be analyzed for human her DNA, fossilized hair, animal fur and bird feathers to better understand possible burial practices.
Just last year, researchers discovered the remains of a child covered in layers of feathers and fur in an elaborate grave in what is now Finland. This fortunate discovery sheds light on the richness of the region’s Stone Age communities, which may have had a close relationship with death.
However, given the large number of tools and burnt material found at the site, Tainiaro may have been more than just a burial sanctuary, Hakonen and colleagues say. Nomads may have lived among the dead, even if only temporarily, by lighting fires and working with stone tools next to graves.
“Many questions regarding Tainiaro remain unanswered,” the team wrote.
“For the time being, however, the idea that large cemeteries are likely to have existed near the Arctic Circle should make us reconsider our impressions of the northern and surrounding places in the world’s prehistory. .”
This study Ancient.