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5,000 year old skull discovered in Spanish cave

Excavations by the Archaeological Museum of Alicante (Marq) in the Cova del Randero, in the municipality of Pedreguer, have brought to light a complete skull of 5,000 years ago, arranged in vertical orientation towards the roof of the cavern.

5,000-year-old skull discovered in Spanish cave
The skull located during excavations in the Pedreguer cave [Credit: MARQ]
The discovery leaves "new and interesting" findings that have prompted research into the use of the cave as a funerary space, according to the Diputación de Alicante.

The works of this last season, which were concluded on 8 September, have focused on excavating the levels corresponding to the last uses of the cave as a habitat and shelter for cattle by Neolithic groups, in the cavity space known as 'Sala interior0'.

The project is directed by the MARQ archaeological team formed by Jorge Soler, Consuelo Roca de Togores, Olga Gómez and Elisa Domènech, and has the support of the City Council of Pedreguer. Some twenty professionals and students from the universities of Valencia, Alicante, León and Pamplona are taking part.

Last year, the exploration began in the area of the funerary enclosure, located in the Gallery that penetrates from the Interior Hall towards the bottom of the cavity and dated by C14 to the first half of the third millennium BC.

This is a sector completely filled with sediment that has been partially excavated this year. There, what has been considered the most important finding of this season was located: a complete skull that was preserved in a vertical position, that is, the cranial base of the skull lay the sediment and its face oriented towards the roof of the cavern.

5,000-year-old skull discovered in Spanish cave
Archaeologists examine the 6,000-year-old vase discovered in the Pedreguer cave [Credit: MARQ]
In addition to human remains, fragments of ceramic vessels, pendants made of perforated shells and arrowheads made of flint, materials pertaining to the clothing and offerings that accompanied the deceased have been documented in the gallery.

This type of funeral ritual is characteristic of the Neolithic Final-Chalcolithic, a period in which cavities were used as niches to deposit the prominent figures of the community.

Once the burial space was full, the skeletons of those who had decomposed were relocated by their descendants to make room for new deceased. However, the skulls received a special ritual treatment, as we have seen in the Cova del Randero.

Anthropological and paleopathological studies by the Marq specialists will be carried out to study the characteristics of the discovered finds.

In 2015, the discovery of a large Neolithic vase some 6,000 years old was an incentive to continue the field and laboratory work, which are contributing, year after year, valuable information for the understanding of the activities and lifestyles of these first farming societies in the province of Alicante.

Source: ABC [September 23, 2017]

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