The oldest example of grave flowers has been discovered in Israel.
An ancient burial pit dating to nearly 14,000 years ago contained impressions from stems and flowers of aromatic plants such as mint and sage.
The new find "is the oldest example of putting flowers and fresh plants in the grave before burying the dead," said study co-author Dani Nadel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa in Israel.
Though the exact purpose of these plants remains a mystery, the findings, detailed today (July 1) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed light on some of the rituals used by one of the earliest human cultures living in fixed settlements.
The burial pits, the first true gravesites in the world, were excavated nearly a half a century ago from Raqefet Cave in Mount Carmel, Israel. The people who made the tombs were part of a Natufian culture that flourished in the Near East beginning about 15,000 years ago. The region contains graves for hundreds of skeletons, including a burial of an ancient shaman woman. [In Photos: 14th-Century Black Death Grave Discovered]
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