Friday, February 25, 2011


Washington - Archaeologists in Alaska have found the remains of a young child from the Ice Age, in a discovery of the oldest human bones yet uncovered from sub-Arctic North America. The finding by a team from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, published in the journal Science, reveals new details about the behaviour of people at the time, including facts about the construction of wooden summer homes and burial rites. Ben Potter and his colleagues said the site on which a child aged about three was cremated and buried is around 11,500 years old. At the time, Asia and North America were still connected by a land bridge across the Bering Straits. The grave in which the remains of the child were found was inside a wooden house that was apparently only used in summer. Experts think it gave protection to women and children during the time they spent gathering berries and catching fish, birds and small mammals.

At that time, men would go hunting and pitched their tents in different places. Scientists concluded from the finding that following the death and cremation of the young child, the women filled the grave with earth and never returned to the house. Based on its teeth, the child was about three years old. It remained unclear whether the remains belonged to a girl or a boy, while Potter and his colleagues could also not determine the cause of the early death. They hoped, however, to be able to obtain from the few surviving bones enough DNA to gather genetic data for the child, in order to be able to compare them to modern-day residents of the area.

Discovery of the burial site of a cremated child, who lived in central Alaska about 11,500 years ago, offers a unique look at one of the peoples who first populated the Americas. At that time the land bridge between Russia and Alaska - the route that humans took to colonize the Americas - was either still opened or had only recently been flooded. The cremated human bones are the “first evidence for behaviour associated with the death of an individual,” the archaeologist Potter said. According to the Hindus tradition, in order to avoid that after death the soul continues to hover around the dead body due to its attachment with it, the body is burned to ashes. This also helps speed the soul to reach its next existence.

Hindus have a fascinating relationship with death. According to the Hindu philosophy, the physical body is considered unreal self, as compared to the imperishable soul, which is regarded the eternal and undying self. The phenomenon of death of the body, however, is always regarded as most sacred and eventful in the family. ... Hindus generally cremate their dead. The body of the departed is given a bath and dressed in fresh clothes. Fragrant sandalwood paste is applied to the corpse, which is then decorated with flowers and garlands. Traditionally, after scriptural chants and cremation rituals (antyeshti) by the priest, the body is placed on the funeral pyre. The eldest son or a close relative of the departed person lights kindling and walks around the pyre, chanting a prayer for the wellbeing of the departed soul. Then he lights the fire. Nowadays, cremation is done in the electric crematorium in many urban places and in foreign countries.

Dr. Hiro Badlani:
“Hinduism - Path of the Ancient Wisdom”
Chapter 53: “Hindu Customs” - Last rites

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