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Neanderthals Liked Their Pigeon Pie Too

Aug 07, 2014 02:32 PM EDT

Neanderthals were not as slow and dumb as some believe. Researchers have recently uncovered evidence that suggests that the ancient sub-humans had more than enough cunning to hunt and catch wild pigeons.

According to a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, more than 1,700 bones of rock doves were found among a trove of Neanderthal relics in Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar.

Clive Finlayson of the Girbaltar Museum, who studied the bones, says that rock doves are the ancestors of the domestic pigeon, and were likely prey to Neanderthals that were living in the region.

Some experts have deemed Neanderthals as too brutish to catch fast or clever prey, but Finlayson argues that this clearly shows different.

What's more, "they couldn't have picked up the skills to catch the birds from modern humans," he told NewScientist.

According to the study, the sediment layers the Neanderthal relics and pigeon bones were buried in date up to 67,000 years ago, with most of the layers dating well before modern humans appeared in the region 40,000 years ago.

While it remains unclear how exactly the Neanderthals caught their pigeons, researchers do know that 15 pigeons were found with teeth marks reflecting common Neanderthal design - supporting the idea that this was not just some bizarre mass grave for the birds. Surprisingly, 158 of the bones were also found to have evidence of burning, and 28 had evidence of cutting, indicating that the Neanderthals were preparing their food.

Past theories about the Neanderthal extinction suggest that they were simply out-competed by humans, who were better prepared to catch quick and clever sources of food.

However, Finlayson's findings add to a study he co-authored in 2008, which argued that these "brutes" even hunted intelligent marine life like seals and dolphins.

"The more we can show similarities between our ancestors and Neanderthals, the more the barriers between us are broken down," he said.

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