Archaeologists Have Discovered The Oldest Human Burials In Ecuador


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

An ancient skull found at the Loma Atahualpa site. FEFU press office

Archaeologists say they have discovered the oldest burials in Ecuador, dating back to up to 10,000 years.

The team from the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) say they found three burials from the ancient inhabitants of South America in a region called Atahualpa anton. Here they found stone tools and human remains, the most ancient found in Ecuador, though no details of the find have been released yet.


It’s thought these burials date back to between 6,000 and 10,000 years, and could tell us more about the origin of ancient American civilizations on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Last year, the team had discovered ancient ceramics dating back to about 6,000 years in a settlement called Real Alto, also in Ecuador. But it’s thought this latest site is even older than that one.

"The archaeological site of Loma Atahualpa is more archaic than Real Alto, its materials are transitional from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic,” Alexander Popov from FEFU, the head of the expedition, said in a statement.

“We excavated three burials that were probably made at different times. This will make it possible to compare their materials and retrieve the new information on the development of ancient cultures.”

The team has been working in Ecuador since 2014, to find out how humans adapted to environmental changes on either side of the Pacific. Over in Asia, similar excavations are being conducted in various locations, including Russky Island near Japan.


This is by no means the oldest burial in the world, though. Some evidence suggests that intentional burials may date back as far as 100,000 years, based on red-stained bones being found in a cave in Israel.

And earlier this year, archaeologists also discovered the oldest known dog burial. Dating back more than 14,000 years, they found a dog fossil buried alongside a man and a woman in Germany, suggesting we have long had a close relationship with dogs.

Over on Russky Island, meanwhile, researchers have found evidence for an ancient camp that may be 6,000 years old, and what was described as an “ancient landfill”. Together with the discovery in Ecuador, it gives us a whole new look at how humans developed simultaneously in two different locations.


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