Were The Neanderthals Cannibals?

In a recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers have taken a look into the lifestyles and habits of neanderthals, and come to some interesting conclusions. The study was conducted by French researchers Alban Fefleur and Emmanuel Desclaux, who studied the remains of neanderthals found in a small cave in southern France. The six neanderthals, according to the researchers, bore characteristics of cannibalism: there were cut marks, dismemberment of finger bones that appeared to have been knawed, and bite marks.

Other examples of cannibalism were also found in Croatia, Spain and Belgium. But what was the reason for such a practice? The bodies in southern France, as analyzed by this study, now bare some clues. Fefleur and Desclaux were able to reconstruct details of the environment at the time and the climate conditions, and found that there was a massive change in the environment, with a much higher increase in temperature. Before and after warming, there were remains of reindeer and wooly mammoths. During the warm period, however, the area lacked large mammals, offering only rodents and insects.

The researchers, therefore, speculate that a lack of large animals and hunting opportunities were what likely led to such barbaric cannibalism in this case. In their analysis of the tooth enamel of the neanderthal remains in southern France, they found signs of stress, illness and malnutrition.

At this stage, the researchers do not believe that there was any ritualistic kind of cannibalism taking place. Rather, where cannibalism did take place, it was only done out of desperation.

Image credit: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/content/dam/nhmwww/discover/human-evolution/neanderthal/neanderthal-model-full-width.jpg.thumb.768.768.png

Jerry Stone

I am the editor-in-chief of poptopnews.com with over 20 years of reporting experience. I have had a long interest in biology and human history, and Pop Top News is my small endeavor to report on studies that I find interesting.

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Jerry Stone