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Evidence of Neanderthal Cannibalism Discovered

Jul 11, 2016 02:36 AM EDT
Neanderthal Man
The site didn’t feature human fossils, so the scientists couldn’t determine who these humans who first populated the country were. Two possibilities are Neanderthals or Denisovans.
(Photo : Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

Our ancestors may have been cannibals. Neanderthals are believed to burry their dead but a recent study suggests that they too, ate and broke the bones of their fellowmen mainly for food.

There are evidence of cannibalism scattered in dug sites in France and the Iberian Peninsula. Some evidence of burial treatment was also discovered in Belgium and Germany. In Europe, four adolescents and one child were found; the largest group of Neanderthal human remains excavated in "Troisième caverne" site in Goyet, Belgium.

What's surprising is that the bones show signs of cut and percussion marks that can mean the bones were crushed to extract the marrow. This study expands the knowledge of researchers when it comes to Neanderthals and their dead.

Undeniable signs were discovered on the Neanderthal bones excavated in Belgium. There were signs of "butchery", according to Washington Post. The pieces of bones were also scattered in the sites mixed together with bones of other species like horses and reindeers that were treated the same way.

"Goyet not only provides the first unambiguous evidence of Neandertal cannibalism in Northern Europe, but also highlights considerable diversity in mortuary behaviour among the region's late Neandertal population in the period immediately preceding their disappearance," according to the study published in Nature.

Aside from cannibalism, some excavated bones exhibit signs that they were used to sharpen and shape stones, according to Eurekalert. There's evidence to show that Neanderthals use the bones of their fellow in Krapina in Croatia and Les Predelles and in La Quina in France.

Dr. Hélène Rougier joined by Asier Gómez-Olivencia, an Ikerbasque researcher at the UPV/EHU led the study. Further analysis also showed links to the DNA of Neanderthals in Goyet, Germany and Spain that proves despite distances reached, there was a very small population of Neanderthals that inhabited Europe.

Skeletal remains of Neanderthals were first discovered 150 years ago, but more than one hundred years later, the behavior and cognitive capabilities of the race is still highly debatable.


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