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20 September 2011
9000-year-old multiple burial uncovered in Corsica

The exceptional discovery of burials about 9,000 years old - probably containing the oldest human remains ever found in Corsica (France) - will allow a better understanding of the history of early settlement of the island and of the Mediterranean.
     On a hill near the village of Sollacaro, Southern Corsica, nestled under a huge ball-shaped block of eroded granite which served as a shelter for prehistoric peoples, the location has been excavated by a team of archaeologists from several French universities, assisted by a Danish colleague.
     "It is evidence of human presence on the island during the Mesolithic period (from 10,000 to 5000 BCE)," said Joseph Cesari, regional curator of archaeological and historic monuments, in presenting the discovery this week. Having uncovered the bones of four or five adults, a teenager, and a baby spread over an area of a few square meters on the site of Campo Stefano during the past several months, efforts in recent weeks have revealed the almost complete skeleton of another adult.
     Patrice Courtaud - palaeontologist and researcher at CNRS and a specialist in Bordeaux Mesolithic burial practices, said, "...there are very few multiple burials, particularly in Corsica", adding that, "We still know little about the people of the Mesolithic, a period marking the beginning of agricultural settlement". If researchers can extract DNA from bones, this will "help to further our knowledge of genetics, nutrition and lifestyle in general," says Courtaud.
     Evidence of human life in Corsica during the Mesolithic had already been uncovered, including the discovery in 1973 of the 'Lady of Bonifacio'. The entire skeleton of this woman is now exhibited at the Museum Levie (Southern Corsica). The date of her burial is estimated at 6500 BCE. Another individual burial was discovered in the Cap Corse.
     The first bones removed at Campo Stefano - well preserved despite the high acidity of granitic soils - can be carbon-dated to a period from 7400-6800 BCE. The remains will be the subject of extensive studies in various laboratories, including the University of Bordeaux - and may eventually be displayed at the Museum of Prehistoric Sartene, in Southern Corsica.

Edited from L'Express.fr, Le Figaro (17 September 2011)

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