Publication Details

Kacki, S., Trinkaus, E., Schotsmans, E. M.J.., Courtaud, P., Dori, I., Dutailly, B., Guyomarc'h, P., Mora, P., Sparacello, V. S. & Villotte, S. (2020). Complex mortuary dynamics in the Upper Paleolithic of the decorated Grotte de Cussac, France. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Online First 1-6.


The Mid-Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) karstic Grotte de Cussac (France) contains two areas of human remains in the context of abundant (and spectacular) parietal engravings. The first area (loci 1 and 2) includes the skeleton of a young adult male in a bear nest, rearranged by postdecomposition inundation, and the variably fragmentary remains of at least two individuals distributed across two bear nests, sorted anatomically and with most of the elements constrained to one side of one nest. The second area (locus 3) retains remains of two adults and an adolescent, in upper hollows and variably distributed down the slope, largely segregated into upper versus lower body groups. The only decoration associated with the human remains is red pigment on some of the bones or underlying sediment. The human remains indicate variable nonnatural deposition and manipulation of human bodies, body portions, and skeletal elements of at least six individuals. Moreover, Cussac is unusual in the association of these remains with exceptional parietal art. The complex Cussac mortuary pattern joins growing evidence from other Gravettian sites of variable treatment of individuals after death, within and across sites, in terms of formal deposition of the body versus postmortem manipulation versus surface abandonment. It provides a window onto the social diversity and the complex interactions of the living and the dead among these successful Late Pleistocene foragers.



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