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Remains of a 3-Year-Old Child Are the Oldest Known Burial in Africa

Mtoto’s burial took place in the Middle Stone Age, which spans from roughly 300,000 to 30,000 years ago, when a suite of modern human innovations developed in Africa. Early evidence of burials in Africa is rare. No buried adults have been found from this period, although the burial of an infant in Border cave in South Africa dates to around 74,000 years ago, and the burial of a child who was about 9 years old in Taramsa Hill, Egypt, dates to around 69,000 years ago. “I find it very interesting that we have interments of two or three children in Africa dating to around the same period,” says Paul Pettitt of the University of Durham, U.K. “Mtoto’s burial is an exceptionally early example of a very rare treatment of the dead which might be commonplace in the modern world, but during the early prehistory of our species was rare, exceptional and probably marked odd deaths.”

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