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They were found in excavations in the Neolithic settlement of Beisamoun, in the Jordan Valley, north of Israel.
A team of French archaeologists has uncovered the traces of the oldest known deliberate cremation in the Middle East, dating back around 9,000 years.
The funeral treatment involved the cremation 'in situ' inside a bonfire of a young individual who had previously survived an injury, suggests the study by scientists from the French National Research Center (CNRS) published in the journal PLOS ONE.
During the excavations of the Neolithic settlement of Beisamoun, in the Jordan Valley, north of Israel, was found an oven-like pit with the remains of a cremated body inside.
The body was treated with care, as discovered by archaeologists by sifting the burned remains. The bones date from between 7013 and 6700 BC. Shortly after his death, they were heated to temperatures above 500 degrees Celsius, the study indicates.
The deceased was apparently placed in a sitting position, with his knees bent towards his chest, the Times of Israel reports.
Publishing their findings in PLOS ONE, the French researchers noted that the work "redefines the place of the dead»In the villages and societies of the time.
Although other charred corpses have been found dating from the same time, they are supposed to have died in fires, while Beisamoun's discovery is the first to show a intentional cremation.
The pit itself has strong insulating walls. The plants, the remains of which were inside the ‘oven’, probably served as fuel for the fire.
Cremation dates back to an important period in the evolution of human funeral rites in this part of the world.