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Earliest Grave in Israel 13,700 Years Ago Already Had Flowers [VIDEO]

Update Date: Jul 05, 2013 12:36 PM EDT

Burying loved ones with flowers is not a new practice; in fact, new research says we have been doing it for almost 14,000 years.

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says archeologists have found flower filled graves in the Raqefet Cave in Mt. Carmel and said they were put there by the Natufians, an eastern Mediterranean culture linked to organized burial sites that might represent some of the earliest 'cemeteries.

The first flowers used include sage and mint. Such plants were very aromatic, imparting their fragrances into the graves. In modern times the tradition is used as a sign of respect or remembrance, but it is believed to have started thousands of years ago to disguise the stench of the rotting corpse.

It was also hoped the scent of the plants would stop animals being attracted to the grave to dig up the body.

"Grave preparation was a sophisticated planned process, embedded with social and spiritual meanings reflecting a complex preagricultural society undergoing profound changes at the end of the Pleistocene," according to the paper led by Dani Nadel from the University of Haifa.

It's difficult to establish when people started to use flowers in public and ceremonial events because of the scarcity of relevant evidence in the archaeological record. We report on uniquely preserved 13,700-11,700-year-old grave linings made of flowers suggesting such use began much earlier than previously thought," Nadel added.

The researchers also found net-like arrangements of stems at right angles in regular intervals lining the graves. And strangely, there were no flint, stone or bone impressions left in the graves, even though there were thousands of these hard, poky objects inside of them.

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