ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Austria have discovered the bodies of two Ice Age babies, estimated to be 27,000 years old.
Buried in 18ft of earth, the preservation of the skeletons is said to be "near perfect".
They were buried beneath the shoulder blade of a hairy mammoth on a hillside overlooking the Danube, in northern Austria, near Krems.
The site had previously been identified as a settlement for early man. The grave also contained a necklace made with 31 separate pieces of ivory from mammoth tusk.
It is the first time that a grave of babies from the Ice Age has been discovered, according to Christine Neugebauer-Maresch, the dig leader.
The Viennese Institute for Natural Sciences will carbon-date the remains of the children to find out their exact age and how they died.
The perfectly preserved skeletons, measuring 15.8in, bore no signs of violence and there was speculation that the children died of a natural disease.
However, the care and attention taken over their burial indicates that they were the offspring of people of stature in their tribe.
Ms Neugebauer-Maresch said: "They may have been twins, but we have not yet been able to establish that. The bodies were buried high on a hillside.
"The site was well chosen and the artefacts interred with them indicate they were possibly the children of a chief or warriors.
"The act of placing a mammoth shoulder bone over them, as if to protect them in the afterlife, denotes great care and attention at their funeral."
The remains have already been classified as homo sapiens fossilis, who came out of Asia during the Ice Age as Neanderthal man was dying out and mastered stone and wood, but did not discover metal.
The discovery of the bodies comes as there is an upsurge in interest in ancient man both in Austria and Germany and an awareness that his life was more complex than we realised.
German archaeologists have unearthed temples belonging to an ancient culture that predates the pyramid builders of Egypt and Stonehenge by 2,000 years.
The archaeologists say that the findings make Greek and Roman buildings, hitherto the benchmark for European civilisation, seem positively IKEA-like in their newness.
One of the most complex centres of what is probably Europe's oldest civilisation has been discovered in Dresden.
More than 150 large temples, which were constructed between 4,800BC and 4,600BC, have been unearthed in fields and cities in Germany, Austria and Slovakia. The network of temples, which are made of earth and wood, was constructed by a religious people whose economy appears to have been based on livestock farming.
Excavations have taken place over the past three years and the results will lead to a rewriting of the history books.
Conventional knowledge says that this was a time of primitive, woad-smeared hunters, living itinerantly and scavenging. However, the finds display a level of sophistication far beyond theoe stereotypes. The most complex centre discovered, beneath the baroque Saxon capital of Dresden, in eastern Germany, comprises a temple surrounded by four ditches, three earthen banks and two palisades.