In that same pit, the team also found a fragment of what looked like the back of a child's skull, with bits of spongy, claylike "gray matter," clinging to it, Reitan said. Though it's still too early to say for sure, Reitan told Live Science he "can't think of anything else [it could be] but brain matter."
The burial also contained what look like deer antlers. Throughout the world, hunter-gatherers have placed deer antlers in the burials of loved ones, though the exact reason why has remained a mystery, Reitan said.
The discovery of the skeleton and skull may be among the oldest Stone Age skeletons in Scandinavia. The details of the burial — such as the wide, deeply dug pit and the potential deer antlers placed in the grave — resemble those of other Mesolithic sites from the region, he said.
"They shared much of the same religious beliefs and shared the same way of handling their dead," Reitan said. The concern and effort taken to dig a pit and leave goods for the deceased show the hints of ancient religious beliefs of Mesolithic people, he added.
Still, there is much more to learn about these long-gone hunter-gatherers. Though the archaeologists tentatively identified some of the artifacts buried in the pit, most of the bones are still embedded in clumps of soil. The team now must painstakingly brush and remove the tightly packed soil from around the bones to more thoroughly catalog the pit's contents, Reitan said.
Once they have documented all the bones from the burial, the researchers may conduct chemical and DNA testing on the bones. That testing could, in turn, reveal what the Stone Age fishermen ate, how the man and child (or infant) lived, and how they are related to other ancient people from around Europe.
The findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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