Burial Practices of Early Humans

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Human development and growth revolve around culture and practices that grow from one stage to another. Everything in human life entails some sorts of ritual, including those that are least imagined. This study examines the burial practices of the early humans with an intention of demonstrating some of the historical growths that have taken place so far. This study greatly relies on the existing pieces of literature, with different scholars providing different pieces of information, and ideas concerning the rituals that have been maintained around the practice of burial. The target audiences of the students of history who would interact with the ideas expressed here to help them in making intelligent conclusions and a decision concerning the evolution of man as far as culture is concerned. Indeed, different people from different backgrounds maintain a different culture in various aspects of life, but one fundamental thing is that there are some shared commonalities across them.

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The study by Joshua J. Mark (2009) defines burial as the act of putting the dead body of a person in a grave and refers his readers to the burial practices among the people living in Mesopotamia who cut graves and tombs. They did so with they believe that their souls of the dead people would meet their afterlife that they thought existed underground. Joshua Mark states that people in the ancient cultures usually marked the graves with by stones bearing the names and likeness of the buried individual. In Egypt for example, there were pyramids that were used for burying the dead and they had certain identities that people would refer to later in the remembrance of the dead person. In Greece, there was tholos, which also served the same purpose. In other cultures, megalithic stone dolmens were used, for example, Cairns like the ones that are found in Ireland and Scotland today.

Peter Spotts (2015) traces the date of the culture of burial and challenges some of the misconceived information concerning the same. To him, the existing studies that support the notion that the culture of burial might have begun 350,000 years are misplaced and should no longer be merited. Through his study, the culture of burial among the human community started around 2 million years ago. He points out the troves of bones found in South Africa and raises a question concerning the complex behavior in the early man. Through his investigation, Homo naledi emerged around 2.5 million to 2.8 million ago, and during this period, they used caves to bury the dead people.  Through the studies, it is evident that the culture of burying the dead as it is today has been practiced for long as shown in the picture below by Ker Than (2013).

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The image shows the skeleton of an individual buried in a cave. This demonstrates that the early man respected the dead and burying someone in this manner was a show of respect and honor. It was not right to allow the body of a dead person to be consumed by wild animals in the open.

Something worth pointing out in this study by Science Daily (2013) is that men were men were more buried than women were. The article reports that in the Upper Paleolithic period showed the high number of men being buried than women. This would show that the culture gave men more recognition than women did, but on the other hand, it would mean that men died frequently than women.  On the other hand, it is also shown that the tradition of burial in the early stage of human development differed from one culture to another. For instance, some of the data collected in Czech Republic, Italy, and Russia shows anomalies as opposed to what is known about the earliest Homo sapiens, such as those in Eurasia. Similarly, people were buried with certain valuables such as ornaments, which give weight to the notion that they were expected to live after death. In fact, an individual was buried with what was thought to be important to him or her, or rather that which he or she would need in his or her life after death. In other cultures like in Egypt, the king would be buried with some of his maidens to help him in his afterlife.

The culture of burial is also linked to Paleolithic religion, which is thought to have emerged during the upper Paleolithic period that existed before 30,000 years ago. Just as has been pointed out, burial entailed some ritualistic believes that accompanied them. These cultural practices have undergone different changes, which in essence indicate that the human society has undergone significant changes and growth (Morgan, 2007). Through this background, scholars have demonstrated that history plays a pivotal role in showing the contemporaries about the contribution of the past in shaping the future. Even though there are differences in the way these cultures were practiced, one important fact is that there were commonalities in belief and objective. For instance, a dead person was deemed to uphold certain levels of dignity that could not be wished away. That is why it was never prudent to allow the body to rot in the air or to be consumed by the wild animals. However, this does not negate the fact that some cultures left the dead people to rot in the wilderness, but more importantly, they were perceived to obtain certain levels of significance to the living.

In conclusion, this presentation I significant to inform its readers about the trails that the culture of burial has undergone as it is known today. This is similar to other human practices that entailed religious and cultural bearings. The rituals performed in these activities tied communities together, and in one way or another, they would be shared with one community to another. In other words, one community would influence another, and that is what leads to the commonalities highlighted in this presentation. That is why the standpoint that different people of diverse backgrounds maintain different tradition in various aspects of life is validated.  As more studies are being carried in this area of human practice, more facts are identified that give the researcher a different worldview. However, the aspect of gender has been an outstanding reality in every human practice. According to the findings presented herein, men were buried more than women, which have an implication. Maybe, men died more than women, or perhaps, men were given higher dignity compared to women. Above all, it is worth appreciating that the early man, even in that primordial stage, had established a complex life, which indeed respected and appreciated humanity.

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  1. Science Daily.  (2013). Early human burials varied widely but most were simple. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130221084747.htm
  2. Morgan, J. H. (2007). ” In the Beginning–“: The Paleolithic Origins of Religious Consciousness. Lirio Corporation.
  3. Joshua J. M. (2009, September 02).  Burial. Definition. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.ancient.eu/burial/
  4. Spotts, P. (2015, September 10).  Ancient burial chamber raises deep questions about early human relatives. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2015/0910/Ancient-burial-chamber-raises-deep-questions-about-early-human-relatives
  5. Than, K.  (2017, October 04). Neanderthal Burials Confirmed as Ancient Ritual. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131216-la-chapelle-neanderthal-burials-graves/
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