Les habitants de la vallée de Chincha au Pérou enfilaient les épines des morts sur des tiges de bois il y a environ 500 ans, une pratique pour la plupart inconnue documentée récemment par les archéologues. Il s’agirait peut-être d’une tentative de restauration des corps des morts lors de la colonisation européenne, selon une étude des chercheurs qui ont déterré 192 exemples de telles épines. Ils comprennent les restes d’enfants.
« Nos découvertes suggèrent que les vertèbres sur poteaux représentent une réponse directe, ritualisée et indigène au colonialisme européen », a déclaré à Insider Jacob L. Bongers, auteur principal de l’étude et archéologue de l’Université d’East Anglia, au Royaume-Uni. « Nous assistons à un comportement mortuaire en temps de crise », a-t-il déclaré.
People in the Chincha valley of Peru threaded the spines of the dead onto wooden rods around 500 years ago, a mostly-unknown practice only recently documented by archaeologists.
It may have been an attempt to restore the bodies of the dead during the European colonization, according to a study by the researchers who unearthed 192 examples of such spines. They include the remains of children.
« Our findings suggest that vertebrae-on-posts represent a direct, ritualized, and Indigenous response to European colonialism, » Jacob L. Bongers, lead author of the study and archaeologist from the University of East Anglia, UK, told Insider.
« We’re seeing a mortuary behavior in a time of crisis, » he said.
“The Omo Kibish Formation is an extensive sedimentary deposit which has been barely accessed and investigated in the past,” said co-author and co-leader of the field investigation Professor Asfawossen Asrat from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, who is currently at BIUST in Botswana. “Our closer look into the stratigraphy of the Omo Kibish Formation, particularly the ash layers, allowed us to push the age of the oldest Homo sapiens in the region to at least 230,000 years.”
“Unlike other Middle Pleistocene fossils which are thought to belong to the early stages of the Homo sapiens lineage, Omo I possesses unequivocal modern human characteristics, such as a tall and globular cranial vault and a chin,” said co-author Dr Aurélien Mounier from the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. “The new date estimate, de facto, makes itthe oldest unchallenged Homo sapiens in Africa.”
The researchers say that while this study shows a new minimum age for Homo sapiens in eastern Africa, it’s possible that new finds and new studies may extend the age of our species even further back in time.
“We can only date humanity based on the fossils that we have, so it’s impossible to say that this is the definitive age of our species,” said Vidal. “The study of human evolution is always in motion: boundaries and timelines change as our understanding improves. But these fossils show just how resilient humans are: that we survived, thrived and migrated in an area that was so prone to natural disasters.”
“It’s probably no coincidence that our earliest ancestors lived in such a geologically active rift valley – it collected rainfall in lakes, providing fresh water and attracting animals, and served as a natural migration corridor stretching thousands of kilometres,” said Oppenheimer. “The volcanoes provided fantastic materials to make stone tools and from time to time we had to develop our cognitive skills when large eruptions transformed the landscape.”
“Our forensic approach provides a new minimum age for Homo sapiens in eastern Africa, but the challenge still remains to provide a cap, a maximum age, for their emergence, which is widely believed to have taken place in this region,” said co-author Professor Christine Lane, head of the Cambridge Tephra Laboratory where much of the work was carried out. “It’s possible that new finds and new studies may extend the age of our species even further back in time.”
“There are many other ash layers we are trying to correlate with eruptions of the Ethiopian Rift and ash deposits from other sedimentary formations,” said Vidal. “In time, we hope to better constrain the age of other fossils in the region.”
The research was supported in part by the Leverhulme Trust, the Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund and the Natural Environment Research Council and the National Environmental Isotope Facility. Céline Vidal is a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.