Archaeologists have discovered an important clue at the burial site of the mysterious "Red Lady of el Miron."
The grave site in northern Spain, which dates to roughly 18,700 years ago, has baffled historians since its discovery was announced. The woman's remains are next to a block tinted with red ochre, Ancient Origins reports, and the woman was buried with flowers. The red ochre also tints some of the woman's remains. In addition, the cave where she was buried contains thousands of stone artifacts and animal bones.
Historians knew the site was important because it is the first Magdalenian Age burial site found on the Iberian Peninsula, but they didn't know what to make of the site. The Magdalenian Age took place 19,000 to 11,000 years ago, and the researchers estimate the woman was between 35 and 40 years old when she died.
Now, archaeologists excavating the cave have discovered a limestone block they believe is the woman's tombstone. The block features a triangular engraving, which they believe represents the female pubic bone. The findings are described in the March issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
"The lines seem to be sort of random, but there is a motif that is a triangle — repeated lines that make a V-shape," Lawrence Guy Straus, an archaeologist from the University of New Mexico who led the excavation, told New Scientist. "What is being represented, at least by some of these lines, might be a female person. Conceivably, this block serves as some kind of marker."
The team hopes the gravestone will better explain the elaborate grave site, which could help historians understand Paleolithic cultures' burial rituals.