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Neanderthals buried their dead like modern humans

Neanderthals buried their dead like modern humans 1

The findings focus on Neanderthal remains that were first discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southwestern France.

According to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Neanderthals buried their dead.  The conclusion was reached following a 13-year study by an international team of archaeologists of Neanderthal remains found in southwestern France.  The team’s findings substantiate that burials took place in western Europe prior to the arrival of modern humans.

“This discovery not only confirms the existence of Neanderthal burials in Western Europe, but also reveals a relatively sophisticated cognitive capacity to produce them,” said William Rendu, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS) in New York City.  CIRHUS is a joint venture between France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and New York University.

The findings focus on Neanderthal remains that were first discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southwestern France.  The bones led its early 20th-century excavators to hypothesize that the site marked a burial ground created by a precursor to early modern humans.  However, their conclusions have stirred controversy in the scientific community since then, with skeptics maintaining that the discovery had been misread and that the burial may not have been deliberate.

Starting in 1999, Rendu and his colleagues – counting researchers from the PACEA laboratory of the University of Bordeaux and Archéosphère, a private research firm – began excavating seven other caves in the area.

During this excavation, which was completed in 2012, the scientists discovered more Neanderthal remains— two children and one adult — in addition to bison and reindeer bones.

Although the researchers did not come across tool marks or other evidence of digging where the initial skeleton was unearthed in 1908, geological analysis of the depression in which the remains were found implies that it was not a natural trait of the cave floor.

The study’s authors also repeated the analysis of human remains found in 1908.  In comparison to the reindeer and bison remains at the site, the Neanderthal remains exhibited few cracks, no weathering-related smoothing, and no signs of disturbance by animals.

“The relatively pristine nature of these 50,000-year-old remains implies that they were covered soon after death, strongly supporting our conclusion that Neanderthals in this part of Europe took steps to bury their dead,” said Rendu.  ”While we cannot know if this practice was part of a ritual or merely pragmatic, the discovery reduces the behavioral distance between them and us.”

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The study appears in PNAS in an article entitled, “Evidence supporting an intentional Neandertal burial at La Chapelle-aux-Saints.”

Source: Science Recorder


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