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Nov 28, 2013 08:41 AM EST

Archaeologists Discover 6,400 Year-Old Human Remains in Barcelona Cave

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Archaeologists at the University of Barcelona have discovered four well-preserved skeletal remains nearly 6,400 years old at the Can Sadurni cave in Begues. This is an extraordinary find because they were unearthed in a unique ritualistic form.

The bodies, of a 50-year-old man, one adolescent and two children (aged around 3-4 and 5-6 years old), were found curled up in tight foetal positions resting on their right side, tied with a rope, covered in a funeral shroud and lined up in a row along the north wall of the cave with one metre gap between them. The four individuals were not buried.

"Their lower extremities were bent, with their knees level with the thorax, and the legs bent towards the thighs. Their arms were bent between the legs and the head."

According to Manual Edo, who is leading the excavations, the bodies were placed in a fetal position because "that is how you arrive on Earth and how you leave. The funerary rites here are different to those (seen) elsewhere," the Digital Journal reports.

Edo believes that funerary ritual dates back to the early Middle Neolithic period and are one of the first spotted on the Iberian Peninsula.

The archaeologists came across the bodies after a mild landside near the cave.

Along with the skeletons, several burial goods were also found inside the cave including an ovoid glass container, fragments of farm animals including two goats and one calf, remains of a bonfire which may have been lit as part of the burial ritual. Under the left arm, close to the elbow of the man, the archaeologists also found a polished bone pendant.

Excavations at the Can Sadurni cave have been ongoing for decades.  Last year some prehistoric pottery was discovered, which is believed to be from the Neolithic Age.

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