Death in the ancient world is difficult to study. Without written records
archaeologists have to rely on what they can physically find, which may be purely
circumstantial. Methods of burial such as the scattering of ashes and where bodies
are buried in certain conditions may be barely traceable after decaying for several
thousand years.

Middle Paleolithic humans
use of burials, at sites such
as Krapina, Croatia
(c.130,000 BP) and Qafzeh,
Israel (c. 100,000 BP) have
led some archaeologists, to
believe that Middle
Paleolithic humans may have
believed in an afterlife and a "concern for the dead that goes beyond daily life".

Cut marks that have been discovered on Neanderthal bones at various sites, such
as Abri Moula in France, and Combe-Grenal, suggest that the Neanderthals like
some more modern cultures may have practiced ritual de-fleshing for (presumably)
religious reasons. According to recent archaeological findings from sites in
Atapuerca, humans may have begun burying their dead much earlier, during the
late Lower Paleolithic.
Counter
Paleolithic Funerals
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"Death for
Beginners"
by
Karen Jones
Red Lady
In 1822, William Buckley, Oxford’s first professor
of Geology, made an interesting discovery. While
excavating  a cave in South Wales, Buckley came
across a massive mammoth skull and digging
further he found a skeleton, dyed with red ochre,  
with seashell necklaces and surrounded by grave
goods believed to have been of ritual significance:
bone, antler, and ivory rods. They nicknamed the
discovery the "Red Lady".

It was later discovered that the ‘Red Lady’ was in
fact a man, and studies have shown that he may
have lived 26,000 years ago. This makes the find
the oldest ceremonial burial discovered in Western
Europe.
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