Humans Have Been Decorating Graves With Flowers For 13,000 Years

In a human tradition still around today, ancient humans from Israel decorated graves with fresh-picked flowers before burying their kin. These are the earliest examples of flowers being used to line graves.

The graves were discovered at Raqefet Cave, in Mt. Carmel, Israel. They belong to humans of the Natufian culture, which existed from 13,000 to 9,800 B.C. They found a total of 29 skeletons, including infants, children, and adults. Some were buried alone and some in double graves.

Four of the graves they found had evidence of flowering plants lining the graves, placed on top of a layer of mud, so they were able to see the impressions the plants made. The researchers think the plants would have provided not just colour, but fragrance to the graves.

“The emergence of Natufian cemeteries, such as those at Raqefet Cave and Hilazon Tachtit Cave, also may represent new and complex social organisations,” the researchers write in their paper, published today, July 1, in the journal Proceedings Of the National Academy Of Sciences

Here’s one of the double graves they discovered, which contained a 12-to-15 year old adolescent on the right, and a 30-year-old on the left:

flower graves

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