Neanderthals 'Thoroughly' Butchered Their Own

Researchers excavated 99 bones and fragments from a cavern in Belgium
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2016 12:49 PM CDT
Neanderthals 'Thoroughly' Butchered Their Own
Many of the bones excavated at a Belgium dig reveal evidence of cannibalism.   (H?l?ne Rougier, et al./Scientific Reports )

Neanderthals appear to have had quite the appetite for, well, one another, at least according to findings by researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Reporting in the journal Scientific Reports, they say that an analysis of 99 new Neanderthal remains from a cavern in Belgium that date back roughly 40,000 to 45,000 years "provide unambiguous evidence of Neanderthal cannibalism in Northern Europe." What's more, they add that in the period immediately before they died out, there was "considerable diversity in mortuary behavior." In other words, for reasons that can only be guessed, Neanderthals of the not-too-distant past skinned one another, sliced into their bones, and even extracted bone marrow, reports UPI.

The team's complete analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of 10 Neanderthals doubles the existing genetic data on a species that died out around 30,000 years ago and confirms previous research suggesting that, due to the low genetic variation, late European Neanderthals were closely related. The Guardian, which calls the latest finding of intentional butchery "grisly," notes that Neanderthal cannibalism has also been suspected in findings in Spain and France, while four bones have suggested that Neanderthals at the very least used the remains of deceased brethren as tools. (Perhaps Neanderthals were tasty; after all, we modern humans may have hunted and eaten them into extinction.)

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