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Scientists find Stone Age cemetery in UK
( 2003-09-24 11:25) (Agencies)

Human bones found in a cave in southwest England date from before 8000 B.C., making the site one of Europe's most important cemeteries from the Middle Stone Age, scientists said Tuesday.

Radiocarbon dating of samples from 800 human bone fragments from Aveline's Hole in the Mendip Hills has shown they are between 10,200 and 10,400 years old, scientists from the conservation group English Heritage said.

The bones, deposited in the cave over a 200-year period, are the largest group of Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age remains in Britain.

"People in early Mesolithic Britain were creating what we can recognize as a cemetery thousands of years earlier than has previously been thought," said Peter Marshall of English Heritage, which commissioned a new study of the bones using the latest techniques.

Other early burial grounds found in Britain date from some 4,000 years later, he said.

The cave near Burrington Combe was found in the 18th century; the bones and teeth belonging to about 20 individuals were excavated in the early 20th century.

Rick Schulting of Queen's University in Belfast, who carried out the dating, said the study "is giving us the opportunity to reconstruct something of the diet, health and lifestyle of these enigmatic people."

 
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