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What was life like 10,000 years ago? Colorado scientists form a better picture after uncovering the earliest known female infant burial site in Europe

David Strait
Washington University
An international team of researchers, including two Colorado scientists, working in the Arma Veirana Cave in northewestern Italy, where the earliest known female infant burial site was uncovered. The infant remains have been dated back to roughly 10,000 years ago, a period of time we don't know much about.

Roughly 10,000 years ago, Earth was experiencing a time of critical change. The planet was leaving the Ice Age, near the end of a much larger pattern of warming and cooling climate events. This led to major changes in the environments people were living in.

Not long after, agriculture started to develop around the world and humans began to shift away from hunting and gathering — a shift that would have profound changes on human bodies, minds and culture for millennia to come. We’ve gained collective insight into the past through many archaeological findings, such as burial sites. But the further back you go, the fuzzier the picture becomes, particularly before about 9,000 years ago.

That takes us to the Arma Veirana Cave in northwestern Italy, where a team of researchers recently discovered the oldest infant burial site known in Europe. The team dated the infant back 10,000 years and have been working to better understand what life may have been like for this infant and her family all that time ago.

We speak with two Colorado scientists who have been closely involved with the discovery, analysis and work leading up to it all: Dr. Jamie Hodgkins, a paleoarchaeologist and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver; and Dr. Caley Orr, a paleoanthropologist and associate professor of cell and developmental biology at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

You can read the paper published by the team about the earliest female infant burial site for free here, and check out what the inside of the cave looks like on YouTube, in these videos from the team.

I host and produce KUNC’s in-depth, regional newsmagazine Colorado Edition, which has me searching across our state for peculiar and impactful stories to bring to listeners, always with a focus on empowering the people who hear our show and speaking through them to our guests. I am also a big nerd about field recording and audio editing, my dedication to which I hope serves our listeners who care about audio as much as I do.
As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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