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 Location: Zagros Mountains, Kurdistan.  Grid Reference: 36 50' N, 44, 13' E.

 

      Shanidar Cave: (Cave).

Several isolated finds of copper objects have been discovered from before the 6th Millennia B.C. The earliest artefact of pure copper known to me is a 2.3 cm pendant found in the Shanidar Cave located in north-east Iraq that is dated to 9,500 B.C. (Hummel 2004).

The cave which was inhabited by Neanderthal for over 30,000 years (from 60,000 - 35,000 BC), until the arrival of the Cro-Magnon.

 

 

 

 

   The Skeletons:

The first excavations produced nine skeletons of Neanderthals of varying ages (labelled Shanidar I - IX). A tenth was recently discovered by the Smithsonian institute. The burials have led to the realisation that at this early time burials were accompanied by funeral ceremonies involving flowers.

Shanidar I was an elderly Neanderthal male known as 'Nandy' to its excavators. He was 40-45 years old and displayed signs of deformity and trauma. At different times of his life he had suffered violent blows and congenital childhood diseases all of which show care and healing long before his death indicating care amongst groups of Humanoids at this early time.

Shanidar II was an adult male who evidently died in a rock-fall inside the cave. There is evidence of a ritual send-off found on top of his grave.

Shanidar III was another adult male who suffered from a degenerative joint disorder and arthritis.

Shanidar IV (The "Flower Burial"). This skeleton of a male between 35-40 years old was found in a foetal position. Soil samples from the site showed the presence of large amounts of flowers over the burial. A study of the particular flower types suggested that the flowers may have been chosen for their medicinal properties. Yarrow, Cornflower, Batchelor's Button, St Barnaby's Thistle, Ragwort, Grape Hyacinth and Hollyhock were all represented in the samples, all of which have long-known curative properties. Recent work into the flower burial' has suggested that the pollen might actually have been introduced by animal action as several burrows of a gerbil-like rodent known as the Persian Jird were found nearby. this has left the debate open ended for present.

(More about Herb Use in Prehistory)

Of particular interest is the observation that two adult males' skulls were - "unusually flat in front and unusually curved in back ... deliberately deformed by pressing the infant's head ... or by binding the head". (1)

(More about Cranial Deformation)

(Other Prehistoric Iraqi sites)

 

 

References:

1). John E Pfeiffer. 'The Creative Explosion' - ISBN 0-06-013345-7

 

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