ART AND CULTURE.

Remains of a prehistoric human skeleton found: could be as old as 3000 years

On the Cariadeghe plateau in Serle, in the Brescia area of Italy, speleologists have unearthed a priceless find: a perfectly preserved ancient skeleton of a woman who lived during the Iron Age, between the 10th and 6th BC.

The woman, called Masha, was found in a cave at a depth of 12 metres, in a huge cavity probably used as a place for animals to hibernate. Along with the woman, the remains of a bear that had been extinct for 30,000 years were also found.

The Cariadeghe plateau had already risen to the headlines a few months ago, as various groups of speleologists were intent on carrying out expeditions to search for water in the area's complex of unexplored underground caverns, and also a way to utilise this water, which would solve quite a few of the region's water problems.

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Human skeleton dating back to the Iron Age found in Italy
On the Cariadeghe plateau in Serle, in the Brescia area of Italy, speleologists have unearthed a priceless find: a perfectly preserved ancient skeleton of a woman who lived during the Iron Age, between the 10th and 6th BC.
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The site of the discovery
The Cariadeghe plateau, near Brescia, in Lombardy (not far from Milan, ed.) had already risen to the headlines a few months ago, as various groups of speleologists were engaged in expeditions to search for water in the area's complex of unexplored underground caverns, and also a way to utilise this water, which would solve quite a few of the region's water problems.
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The authors of the finding
Masha's skeleton was found on 19 December 2021 by speleologists Nicolò Falgari, Vincenza Franchini, Stefano Maccabiani and Massimo Pozzo of the Underland, Gruppo grotte Alto Garda Bresciano and Gruppo grotte Brescia groups, who were engaged in the exploration of a new cave at Boca del Züf, on the plateau.
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The mystery surrounding Masha
It is known for certain that this woman did not die of natural causes. First of all, this place was not used for funeral rituals, and no ornaments or signs were found on the woman that she might have been buried at the time. In fact, Masha had probably ended up in the cave by falling from the same spot from which the speleologists entered. It will forever remain a mystery whether she fell by mistake or, even worse, was pushed and thrown down on purpose.
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The investigation of the woman's remains
Since there was nothing to indicate the time of his death, a mighty investigation involving various institutes was necessary. Specifically, a team of experts made up of Soprintendenza archaeologists Cristina Longhi and Serena Solano, archaeologist Marco Tremari, and anthropologist Omar Larentis, coordinator of the Insubria University's centre of osteoarchaeology and palaeopathology, studied it in depth. There were surveys, 3D photogrammetry, traces and findings and much more: Masha's skeleton was taken first to the University of Varese and then to the University of Trento, where it is still located today. Not before, however, sending a sample to the European centre in Mannheim, Germany, for carbon 14 dating.
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What is known about Masha
According to all analyses performed, the woman is thought to have lived between the 10th and 6th century BC, i.e. during the Early Iron Age. Her age at the time of death was estimated to be between 35 and 55 years, and she was in a good state of health. It was also confirmed that death was caused by fractures to the skull and neck, due to the abrupt fall from the mouth of the cave onto a rocky outcrop.
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The remains of an ursus spelaeus
Inside the 38 by 8 metre cave, the remains of an ursus spelaeus, an ancient cave bear that had been extinct for almost 30,000 years, were also found. The cave bear became extinct during the last Pleistocene ice age, leaving no descendants. Studies carried out on a large quantity of cave bear bones seem to suggest that one of the possible causes of the extinction of this large mammal may have been frequent dental and mouth diseases.
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Details unveiled this evening
The details of the discovery will be unveiled this evening, Wednesday 31 May 2023 in Serle's town hall in the presence of all those involved in the incredible affair. "We have been active right from the start, in the utmost cooperation with speleologists and the Superintendence: a good team effort, serious and professional work. Now we also want our citizens to know the story,' says Oscar Benedetti, councillor of the municipality where the woman was found.
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Masha the name given to the mysterious woman
The woman, called Masha, was found in a cave at a depth of 12 metres, in a huge cavity probably used as a place for animals to hibernate. Along with the woman, the remains of a bear that had been extinct for 30,000 years were also found. Precisely because of its proximity to the remains of this animal, the woman's skeleton was given the name Masha (Masha &Bear is in fact a well-known children's cartoon).
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19/04/2024
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