Remains of a boy without limbs found in an 8,000-year-old grave

Image: Dr Shimona Kealy, ANU

Archaeologists from the Australian National University have made a chilling discovery: the dismembered remains of a child in a burial dating back 8,000 years.

He is a child buried in Makpan Cave on Alor Island, Indonesia. They believe the child’s arms and legs were removed as part of old burial practice.

The estimated age of the remains, based on the teeth, is between six and eight years, but its skeleton is four to five years old.

Image: Ms Tahila Stewart, ANU
Image: Ms Tahila Stewart, ANU

The case’s lead researcher, Sofia Samper Carro of the Australian National University (ANU), believes the evidence suggests the body was buried after some kind of funeral rite. She noted that the boy’s cheeks and forehead were painted with ocher pigment and that an ocher-colored stone was placed under the boy’s head when he was buried.

“Child burials are very rare and this complete burial is the only one from this time period. From 3,000 years ago to modern times, we start seeing more child burials and these are very well studied. But, with nothing from the early Holocene period, we just don’t know how people of this era treated their dead children. This find will change that”

explains Samper Carro

The child’s arms and legs removed were discarded elsewhere. According to the scientist, it could have been part of a cultural or religious practice.

Researchers want to conduct further studies on the remains to determine whether they are related to the adult skulls they also found on Alor Island during their previous work.

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