The Mystery of the Pit of Bones, Atapuerca, Spain

The Mystery of the Pit of Bones, Atapuerca, Spain

Did Homo heidelbergensis bury their dead in the Pit of Bones 500,000 years ago? 

At the bottom of a natural cave shaft, 43 feet deep, the Pit of Bones preserves some 28 individuals of Homo heidelbergensis. The bones of cave bears also occur in the pit. It’s thought that the bears tumbled down the shaft by accident while seeking places to hibernate. But what about the early human bodies? No signs of tool butchery or other food remains occur. A single stone handaxe was the only tool found in the pit, made of a type of stone unknown in the vicinity. According to some researchers, the bodies must have been purposely thrown in by their relatives in a kind of ritual burial. Others say, if it’s a ritual, why aren’t other burials known until much later? The Pit of Bones remains a hot issue in human origins.

map of Atapuerca, Spain