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Current Anthropology Article in the News
Professor Vincenzo Formicola (Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Italy) has been conducting research in different Upper Paleolithic Burial Sites across Europe and his results indicate that the region's population may have practiced ritual human sacrifice. The large number of multiple-burial sites, some containing skeletons of dwarfs and deformed children with ornate burial offerings such as ivory beads, suggests that human sacrifice was a custom in Europe in the period between 28,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Many burial sites across Europe continue to remain in good condition and provide an important source of information for researchers to investigate ideological aspects underlying Prehistoric funeral practices. Dr. Formicola's analysis of the European record reveals an intriguing number multiple burials. Furthermore, Dr. Formicola finds that the burials, if not simultaneous, were not long separated in time. The conservative explanation for a multiple burial would be to conclude it is the result of a natural event such as an accident or disease but analysis of age and sex lead Dr. Formicola to conclude that these sites are the result of selective practices. In addition, some of the most spectacular multiple burials include a severely deformed individual. This is the case of the extraordinarily ornamented double burial of the Sunghir children (Russia), the triple interment of Dolní Vestonice (Moravia) (in the drawing above), which includes young individuals lying in unusual positions, and the adolescent dwarf from Romito Cave (Italy), buried together with a wom