Journey of a skull: How a single human cranium wound up alone in a cave in Italy

Image: MLC on the top rated of the shaft and Lucia Castagna, the younger archaeologist of GSB-USB that secured and recovered the cranium (Archive SABAP-BO/GSB-USB, ph. F. Grazioli)
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Credit score: Belcastro et al, 2021, PLOS One (CC-BY 4.,

A lone cranium in an Italian cave wound up there right after remaining washed absent from its unique burial site, in accordance to a examine revealed March 3, 2021 in the open-entry journal PLOS Just one by Maria Giovanna Belcastro of the College of Bologna, Italy and colleagues.

In 2015, archaeologists found a one human cranium (a skull devoid of a reduce jaw) in a gypsum cave in Northern Italy named Marcel Loubens cave. Caves are identified to have been used for funerary procedures in historical Italy, but the fact that there are no other human stays in this cave has lifted issues about how this cranium came to be there, inspiring the researchers in this research to carry out a detailed investigation on the bone.

The framework of the bone signifies that it belonged to a woman in between 24 and 35 decades old at death. Carbon relationship locations the remains involving 3630-3380 BC, all through the Eneolithic interval. Several lesions on the bone appear to be problems brought about for the duration of the elimination of gentle tissues immediately after dying as component of a funeral ritual, even though other problems and encrusted sediment on the bone are proof that it was moved by natural procedures not lengthy afterward.

With this evidence, the scientists reconstructed the journey of the cranium. After getting treated and laid to rest in a burial place, the skull of this corpse rolled away, most probable moved by water and mud down the slope of a sinkhole and into the cave. Afterwards, ongoing sinkhole action created the modern day structure of the cave, with this bone still preserved within. Other than revealing this intriguing story, this specimen also very likely signifies evidence of funerary cure of a corpse in Italy for the duration of this time period of time.

The authors increase: “An intriguing archaeological cold situation: an isolated human cranium was identified in the pure Marcel Loubens gypsum Cave (Bologna location, northern Italy) at the top rated of a vertical shaft, arrived at by an artificial 12-metre complex climb. How and when did it get there? Whose was it?

The cadaver (or head) of an early Eneolithic youthful lady was probably manipulated and dismembered in a funerary or ritual context and the cranium, just after a extended and bumpy trip, unintentionally ended up in the cave in the place in which it was located!”


Quotation: Belcastro MG, Nicolosi T, Sorrentino R, Mariotti V, Pietrobelli A, Bettuzzi M, et al. (2021) Unveiling an odd destiny just after demise: The isolated Eneolithic cranium found in the Marcel Loubens Cave (Bologna, Northern Italy). PLoS 1 16(3): e0247306.

Funding: The Authors been given no precise funding in this work.

Competing Pursuits: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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