A Mid Upper Palaeolithic Child Burial from Borsuka Cave (Southern Poland)



During the excavation in the Borsuka Cave site (southern Poland), extraordinary materials were obtained for the study of the Mid Upper Palaeolithic (MUP) settlement in the region. In layer VI, six deciduous teeth of a modern Homo sapiens infant were discovered together with 112 pendants made from the teeth of European elk and steppe wisent or aurochs. The teeth appear to belong to a 12- to 18-month-old child. The sex of the child cannot be determined. Diagnostic features of the teeth and the fact that they all represent the same developmental phase suggest that they belong to a single individual. In this paper, we put forward a number of alternative explanations for why only a child's teeth and numerous pendants were deposited in the late Pleistocene sediments of Borsuka Cave, for example, natural factors (carnivore activity), human habitation, existence of a pendant workshop in the vicinity of the cave and intentional burial. Although no traces of a burial pit were encountered, intentional burial, the oldest known from Poland, is indicated by the presence of human remains together with numerous ornaments and absence of ‘domestic’ finds, such as lithic cores, debitage and tools. An unusual presence of a larger number of pierced teeth of large herbivores in a child burial is noticeable among assorted mortuary practices recorded in MUP Central Europe. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.