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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Among modern humans, mortuary behaviours conform to established conventions of the particular society enacting them, yet they are present in all societies, thus providing a basis for analogies between the present and the past. The caveats for the use of such analogies are reviewed in the context of understanding early prehistoric mortuary practices. Taking these into consideration, the chapter speculates on the origins and diversification of mortuary practices as social phenomena, in relation to hominin taxonomy, on geographic and temporal scales. The chapter suggests that mortuary behaviours differ between Eurasia and Africa and are not necessarily a single-origin phenomenon. Exhibiting material simplicity, burials, and other mortuary practices in the Middle Palaeolithic are best understood within the emotional realm and symbolic context.

Keywords: burials, ritual cannibalism, symbolic behaviour, social organization, Middle Palaeolithic

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