Earliest female human infant burial found in Europe

The research team’s findings were released Tuesday in an article in Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed journal.

Negrino said he was first alerted to the existence of the cave in 2006 by the head of a local museum, but he only had the opportunity to start investigating it along with other researchers in 2015.

Arma Veirana, as the cave is known, had already been discovered by looters and their digging uncovered tools that drew researchers to the area. Negrino described the cave as having the shape of a hut with a sloping roof, measuring around 130 feet deep, with a 33-foot-high entrance.

“It is well recognizable even from a long distance,” Negrino said. “Now vegetation covers most of the entrance and the area in front of it, but during the Pleistocene and the Early Holocene it must have been very visible and represented an essential landmark for the groups of hunter-gatherers who ventured along Neva valley.”

The excavation team was made of up of researchers from the University of Colorado and Washington University, as well as from universities in Italy, Germany and Canada. They discovered the burial site itself in 2017, and fully excavated the infant’s remains in July 2018.

Neve’s skeleton was heavily damaged and missing significant portions, including most of the mid-abdominal region, according to the journal article.

The researchers used cutting edge technology to examine the remains and were able to date the infant’s teeth, showing that she died 40 to 50 days after she was born. It also showed that she experienced stress that briefly halted the growth of her teeth 47 days and 28 days before she was born.

“Archeological reports have tended to focus on male roles, and in doing so have left many people out of the narrative,” lead researcher Jamie Hodgkins said in a news release.

“Protein and DNA analyses are allowing us to better understand the diversity of human personhood and status in the past. Without DNA analysis, this highly decorated infant burial could possibly have been assumed male.”

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