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Evidence of Cannibalism among Ancient Humans Uncovered

Neanderthal
A recent finding gives evidence of cannibalism among ancient humans (Neanderthals) in northeastern Spain. Credit: Public domain

Researchers have recently uncovered compelling evidence of Neanderthals engaging in cannibalistic behavior. This significant finding emerged from an excavation in a cave located in northeastern Spain.

The discovery was officially announced on Friday (June 23) by a team of dedicated researchers.

The Neanderthal remains, estimated to be approximately 52,000 years old, were unearthed at the Cova de les Teixoneres site situated in the Moianès region. This region falls within the autonomous community of Catalonia.

Neanderthals, a species closely related to humans and now extinct, resided in Eurasia until their eventual disappearance nearly 40,000 years ago, according to Newsweek.

Fragments of a Neanderthal juvenile skull

In June, an archaeological expedition led by The Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) carried out excavations at the Cova de les Teixoneres. During the dig, researchers found fragments of a Neanderthal juvenile skull. Specifically, they recovered two pieces of the posterior part of the skull.

These newly discovered bones add to the growing collection of Neanderthal remains found at the site since the initial discovery in 2016.

The remains of a child, estimated to be around 6-7 years old, were previously identified, along with those of an 11 years old child and an elderly individual.

All of these ancient remains, including those of the recently discovered juvenile, have been dated back to a little over 52,000 years ago.

Moreover, these remains were found scattered across the same area near the cave entrance, intermingled with the bones and teeth of various animals that were hunted by Neanderthals.

At first, it posed a challenge for researchers to ascertain the precise reason for the presence of Neanderthal remains within the cave.

However, recent investigations have shed light on the matter. Cut marks have been identified on the surface of a collarbone, also known as a clavicle, which was previously unearthed at the cave site.

Through careful analysis, the researchers have determined that these marks resulted from activities associated with cannibalism.

Bones likely to be consumed by Neanderthal kin

The researchers said that the presence of cut marks on the bones suggests that they were intentionally processed by other Neanderthals, potentially for consumption by their own kind.

Interestingly, the fact that the human remains were found in fragmented pieces could suggest that Neanderthals were trying to extract the nutrient-rich marrow and other valuable substances contained within the bones.

While instances of Neanderthal cannibalism have been previously documented, this discovery marks the first officially recorded case in Catalonia.

Jordi Rosell, one of the researchers from IPHES and co-director of the study, informed La Vanguardia that only a limited number of cases, around eight to ten, have been confirmed with good data.

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