Flowers have gone hand in hand with death for at least 13,000 years. The remains of colourful and fragrant blooms have been found in Stone Age Natufian graves, providing the latest evidence that the eastern Mediterranean culture marked a turning point in the birth of the modern society.
“Everything changed with the Natufians,” says Daniel Nadel at the University of Haifa in Israel. Just before the agricultural revolution, they built the first basic settlements, invented technologies to process grain and gave the world cemeteries.
“Before, you find a few isolated burials,” says Nadel. “But some Natufian sites have more than 100 skeletons in one confined area. That’s a huge change.”
In Raqefet cave in the Haifa district, Nadel and his colleagues have found four graves, between 13,700 and 11,700 years old, that were lined with flowers. They identified the imprints of sages and figworts in the mud around the bodies â€“ the earliest strong evidence of plants being associated with funeral ceremonies.