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Mesolithic double burial discovered in France


The Mesolithic covers a period of 5,000 years, and yet less than fifty burials from this period are known in France. One of them, containing two human remains, has been excavated by a team from Inrap in Casseneuil (a commune in the Lot-et-Garonne department in south-western France) since the beginning of March.


Mesolithic double burial discovered in France
Mesolithic tomb of Casseneuil being cleared [Credit: Frederic Prodeo, Willford O'yl, Inrap]

The Casseneuil burial site was discovered in 2008, during a preliminary inspection for the construction of a housing estate. The State (Drac Nouvelle-Aquitaine, regional archaeology service) commissioned the excavation, which is currently underway on a 1500 m² property. The radiocarbon dating recently obtained dates this double burial to around 9000 years before our era, i.e. an early period of the Mesolithic.




Each new discovery of this nature is of singular interest for the knowledge of the funerary practices of these human groups who moved over vast hunting and gathering territories.


Mesolithic double burial discovered in France
Mesolithic tomb of Casseneuil being cleared [Credit: Frederic Prodeo, Willford O'yl, Inrap]

Thanks to the limestone base, which reduces the acidity of the soil, the two skeletons discovered at Casseneuil are in an excellent state of preservation. They lie at the bottom of a small oval pit less than one metre in diameter and one metre deep. It seems that they were buried in a sitting position, which is common for this period. But this will not be confirmed until the excavation is complete. The upper filling of the pit contained cremated remains, small flint fragments and ochre pellets, which may be part of the funeral ritual.




Excavations and investigations are currently underway to determine whether this double grave is isolated, as one might expect for this period. However, it may be part of a larger group, a necropolis, as is the case in Morbihan at Teviec and Hoedic.


Mesolithic double burial discovered in France
Mesolithic tomb of Casseneuil being cleared [Credit: Frederic Prodeo, Willford O'yl, Inrap]

At the conclusion of a meticulous excavation, the position of the bones will make it possible to define whether it is a primary or secondary deposit. The method of burial, in the ground or in a perishable container, will then become clear, as will possible modifications to the two skeletons.




In the laboratory, the anthropological study will then define the age and sex of these two individuals. Some of their physical conditions (pathologies, traumas and possible deficiencies) will thus be revealed. Isotopic analyses will provide information on their diet and the environments they frequented. Finally, DNA analyses will make it possible to identify the geographical origin of these individuals who died nearly 11,000 years ago.


Mesolithic double burial discovered in France
The Mesolithic tomb of Casseneuil [Credit: Frederic Prodeo, Willford O'yl, Inrap]

The Casseneuil double burial belongs to an ancient period of the Mesolithic, between the Azilian and the Sauveterrian, at the beginning of post-glacial times. This last period takes its name from a site in the valley of the Lemance not far from there.


This grave adds to the meagre knowledge available about the mortuary practices of this period. The small number of known burials indicates that only a few people benefited from this ritual. Which ones? Why did they do it? These are questions that the discovery of Casseneuil raises today.


Source: Inrap [trsl. TANN; April 10, 2021]



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