The ‘oldest known cremation in the Middle East’ was 9,000 years ago

The ‘oldest known cremation in the Middle East’ is revealed to be a young adult who was wounded by a flint projectile several months before his death in Israel 9,000 years ago.

  • Researchers uncovered evidence of ancient cremation in northern Israel
  • The find included the remains of a corpse that had been deliberately set on fire.
  • The team says the cremation and remains date to between 7013 BC. C. and 6700 a. C.

By Ryan Morrison for Mailonline
Published: 2:00 p.m. EDT, August 12, 2020 | Updated: 2:21 PM EDT, August 12, 2020

The oldest known cremation has been discovered in the Middle East and occurred 9,000 years ago after a young adult died after being hit by a flint projectile.

Scientists at the French National Center for Scientific Research believe the remains found in present-day Israel marked a cultural shift in burial practices.

Excavations at the Neolithic site of Beisamoun in northern Israel uncovered the ancient cremation pit dating to between 7013 BC. C. and 6700 a. C.

The remains of a corpse appear to have been intentionally cremated as part of a funeral practice and are the oldest known example of cremation in the region.

This is an image of the right hip bone in situ, preserved almost completely by a piece of mud wall collapsed during the fire that burned the rest of the young adult’s remains.

The individual buried at the stake was wounded by a flint projectile several months prior to death as seen by passersby in its entirety in this piece of bone.

The remains comprise parts of a complete skeleton of a young adult that was heated to a temperature of more than 932 degrees Fahrenheit shortly after death.

What was left of the bones that belonged to the young man were feet, ribs, shoulder and part of a left arm; the rest had been burned beyond recognition.

The remains are inside a shaft that appears to have been built with an open top and strong insulating walls, according to lead researcher Fanny Bocquentin.

The microscopic plant remains discovered inside the pyre shaft are likely remnants of fuel for the fire, according to findings published in the journal PLOS One.

The evidence led the investigation team to identify it as an intentional cremation of a fresh corpse, as opposed to burning dry remains or a tragic fire accident.

Dr. Bocquentin said cremation occurs in an important period of transition in funeral practices in this region of the world.

“Old traditions were disappearing, such as the removal of the skull of the dead and their burial within the settlement, while practices such as cremation were new.”

To the left is a segment of the skeleton left over from the funeral pyre and to the right a section of the site where the pyre can be seen.

“This change in funeral procedure could also mean a transition in the rituals surrounding death and the meaning of the deceased within society,” he said.

“A closer look at other possible cremation sites in the region will help shed light on this important cultural shift.

“This is a redefinition of the place of the dead in the town and in society.”

The findings have been published in the journal PLUS ONE.