Archaeologists have discovered dozens of tiny human figures which they say were used in funeral rituals to celebrate the dead over 10,000 years ago.
Human-shaped figures from 7,500 BC were discovered by Spanish archaeologists in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Kharaysin, located in the village of Quneya, at the Zarqa River valley in the Arab country of Jordan in western Asia.
According to a press statement by scientists from the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (csic), as part of the Mila and Fontanals Institution of Humanities (IMF), the figures were found surrounding human remains and are believed to have been used in funeral rituals.
According to the statement, scientists found several dozen of these never before seen elongated figures, which measured between 2 and 5 cm (1.7 – 1.9 inches) long.
According to the experts, the figures were made with flint about 10,000 years ago and found inside graves of a Neolithic cemetery.
Reportedly the stone used is usually associated with the production of tools, while figures with similar characteristics were made of clay or, less frequently, bone.
However, after analysing the figures in-depth, the archaeologists report that they are sure these items were not tools but human figures.
Scientist of CSIC, and principal investigator, Juan Jose Ibanez, said: “One of the excavators suggested they were figurines, which the rest of the team were sceptical about,
“However, the more we studied the stronger the idea appeared.”
When asked about the figures Ibanez said that the most plausible hypothesis is that the figures have a: “a funerary significance and were used in memorial rituals.
“There are signs that some of the tombs were opened not long after the burial and the bones were removed, manipulated and then buried again.”
According to another CSIC scientist fo IMF, Ferran Borrell: “The diversity in the forms is intriguing. Some figurines are bigger than others, some are symmetrical and some are asymmetrical, and some even seem to have some kind of appeal.
“Everything indicates that the first farmers used these statuettes to express beliefs and feelings and to show their attachment to the deceased.
“Our study shows that early farmers performed memorial rituals in cemeteries where they not only reopened graves and manipulated human bones but also made and deposited flint figurines representing the deceased,”
The findings were published in the science journal Antiquity.