Cold, Cold Hearth

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The northern regions near the Arctic Circle, mostly deserted these days, have long been perceived as peripheral in analyses of prehistory. A 6,500-year-old cemetery now challenges that conception, Gizmodo reported.

Located in the Finnish Lapland town of Tainiaro, 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle, this Stone Age cemetery is one of Europe’s largest. That is at least the conclusion of archeologists after finding numerous pits.

No human remains were found in Tainiaro because the acidic soil destroyed them millennia ago. What led archeologists to consider these pits as graves was the red ochre they found in some of them. It is believed that this colorant was used in burials.

However, red ochre was only present in 23 pits. In other pits, the scientists found ash and charcoal, hinting at the presence of fireplaces. Since most pits did not have such traces, they concluded that this was once a cemetery.

After its discovery 60 years ago, excavations in the 1980s and 1990s estimated there were about 40 graves. The latest excavation tripled that number, but the archeologists said there could be more than 200.

That such a large-scale burial site was found in the far north has led to a rethinking of the idea that this cold, inhospitable region was not a welcoming place for humans.

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