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


Impression: MLC on the major of the shaft and Lucia Castagna, the young 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 Just one (CC-BY 4.,

A lone cranium in an Italian cave wound up there following getting washed away from its original burial web page, according to a analyze printed March 3, 2021 in the open up-entry journal PLOS One particular by Maria Giovanna Belcastro of the University of Bologna, Italy and colleagues.

In 2015, archaeologists uncovered a solitary human cranium (a cranium with no a decrease jaw) in a gypsum cave in Northern Italy termed Marcel Loubens cave. Caves are recognised to have been utilised for funerary tactics in historical Italy, but the simple fact that there are no other human stays in this cave has lifted queries about how this cranium came to be there, inspiring the scientists in this analyze to conduct a in-depth assessment on the bone.

The composition of the bone implies that it belonged to a girl among 24 and 35 yrs outdated at demise. Carbon courting spots the continues to be in between 3630-3380 BC, throughout the Eneolithic period of time. Numerous lesions on the bone appear to be damage brought about during the elimination of gentle tissues right after demise as element of a funeral ritual, while other hurt and encrusted sediment on the bone are evidence that it was moved by all-natural procedures not lengthy afterward.

With this evidence, the scientists reconstructed the journey of the cranium. Right after being taken care of and laid to relaxation in a burial location, the skull of this corpse rolled absent, most possible moved by drinking water and mud down the slope of a sinkhole and into the cave. Later on, continued sinkhole activity developed the present day composition of the cave, with this bone however preserved in. In addition to revealing this intriguing story, this specimen also very likely signifies proof of funerary cure of a corpse in Italy during this time time period.

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

The cadaver (or head) of an early Eneolithic younger woman was likely manipulated and dismembered in a funerary or ritual context and the skull, right after a lengthy and bumpy journey, accidentally finished up in the cave in the posture in which it was located!”


Citation: Belcastro MG, Nicolosi T, Sorrentino R, Mariotti V, Pietrobelli A, Bettuzzi M, et al. (2021) Unveiling an odd fate just after dying: The isolated Eneolithic cranium uncovered in the Marcel Loubens Cave (Bologna, Northern Italy). PLoS Just one 16(3): e0247306.

Funding: The Authors acquired no unique funding in this operate.

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

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