Remains Found of 7,000-Year-Old Man Buried Upright

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The young man was buried in a vertical pit in a 8,500-year-old cemetery, one of the oldest ever found in Europe. Credit: A. Kotula

A Mesolithic site in Germany has revealed the 7,000-year-old remains of a young man buried there in a strange upright position.

Placed in a vertical pit, the body was fixed upright by filling the grave with sand up to the knees. The upper body was left to decay and was likely picked at by scavengers.

The unique burial was found near the village of Groß Fredenwalde, on top of a rocky hill in northeastern Germany, about 50 miles north of Berlin.

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Dating back 8,500 years, the site belongs to the Mesolithic era when Europe was inhabited by hunter-gatherers who rarely stayed in one place.

Nine skeletons have been excavated so far, including five children younger than 6 years and the 8,400-year-old skeleton of a 6-month-old infant, with arms still folded across the chest.

According to Thomas Terberger, the excavation director at the Lower Saxony Department of Historic Preservation, the site was one of the first true cemeteries in Europe, used by native central European hunter-gatherers and fisherman from about 6400 B.C. to 500 B.C.

“It is evidence for a more stable way of life some 8,000 years ago,” Terberger said.

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Detailing their findings in the journal Quaternary, Terberger and colleagues describe the skeleton buried upright as “without any parallel in central Europe.”

From the arrangement of the bones, the researchers speculate the young man was put — probably dead — into a 5 foot vertical pit.

Leaning with its back against the wall of the grave, the body was fixed in standing position by filling the pit with sands to a level above the knees.

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