Stone Age Burial of Babies Suggests Prehistoric Compassion

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Infants may have been considered equal members of prehistoric society, according to an analysis of burial pits found in Austria.

Two separate pits, one containing the remains of two infants and the other of a single baby, were discovered at the same Stone Age camp of Krems-Wachtberg in Lower Austria. Both graves were decorated with beads and covered in red ochre, a pigment commonly used by prehistoric peoples as a grave offering when they buried adults.

Using radiocarbon dating, archaeologists from the Prehistoric Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences put the remains at about 27,000 years old.

"Nothing comparable to these burials of such young Upper Paleolithic individuals has been found before," study co-author Christine Neugebauer-Maresch wrote in a recent edition of the journal Nature.

The discovery could challenge the long-held belief that—since child burials seem to be so rare—infants in this period were treated with a degree of indifference, the researchers said.

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