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Neanderthal cannibalism is less surprising than you think


Neanderthal cannibalism is less surprising than you think

A new study suggests that a group of Neanderthals in the south-east of France turned to cannibalism to survive lean times. If it says nothing about the Neanderthals is that they were not so different from us, for better and for worse.

Bones in cave

Something terrible happened in the Mula-Guercy cave on the south-eastern France about 120 000 years ago. Archaeologists digging site in the early 1990s found the bones of six Neanderthals in the eastern wall of the cave, separated and mixed with the bones of deer and other wild animals. This mixing of the bone, as if the dead Neanderthals were pushed back with the remnants of their food, rather strange; there is a lot of evidence that Neanderthals, as a rule, buried their dead. But Muli-Guercy, at least six Neanderthals, two adults, two teenagers and two children received very different treatment. Their bone and those of deer show nearly identical cutting traces, scraping or cracks, damage type, usually associated with bunching.

"If many human remains found on undisturbed residential floor, with similar models from damage, mixed with animal remains, stone tools, as well as fireplaces, they can legitimately be interpreted as evidence of cannibalism," says Alba Defleur and Emmanuel Desclaux in a recent paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The bones from the ankles, elbows and dead legs show the crushing characteristics and dramatically to just & # 39; to combine large tendon to separate and shafts femoral still bear the marks of stone tools used to remove muscle and stone hammers and sledge hammers, that used to open bones to get at the marrow inside. And the one who did the work had been a cop about it. One skull, Defleur noted that "successive signatures of one and the same stone tool edges, indicating that the rounding to the temporalis muscle." This wide, fan-shaped muscle on the side of the head, used when chewing. And at least one of the lower jaw teenage Neanderthals cut marks that suggested his tongue was cut out. Two of the phalanges (finger bones), even the tracks that look much more like the teeth of Neanderthals than any carnivore.

Over the past twenty years, archaeologists have debated what it means. Evidence of possible cannibalism has turned to several sites across Europe, though not all of it is as clear as the scene in the Mula-Guercy. We understand relatively little Neanderthal life, so it's easy to wonder if defleshing (with or without food) the dead were part of a funeral ritual; There is a precedent that in some human cultures, in the end. But we have evidence of deliberate, careful burial, with at least 17 destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia; suggestions of cannibalism is much less frequent, and it does not look like the bones in Muli-Guercy were utilized with any type of care after the fact.

Instead, the new research environment in the south-east of France, shows at the time that the telltale cut marks on the bones were the work of desperate people trying to survive. Or, as an archaeologist T.D. White put his 2003 article, "People tend to eat because they are hungry, and most prehistoric cannibals were therefore probably hungry."

fasting during

For tens of thousands of years, Neanderthals lived in the cold steppes, where large mammals like deer and woolly mammoth roamed in herds. What we know about Neanderthals until now, based on chemical analysis of the bones indicate that the meat from the & # 39 is an important part of their diet, and that they relied less on plants and fish than many modern human hunter-gatherers.

Despite the fact that they were very similar to us, it is enough to us to make the child homo sapiens and left traces of their DNA in modern genome-their bodies were built just a little bit differently. Some studies show that the average Neanderthal need more calories to keep going: about 3,500 to 5,000 per day. To do this, they relied on the larger and richer game.

But everything changed in the end (which is probably a & # 39 is the most succinct summary of human history, we never get). About 130 thousand years ago, the world has started to become warmer; from marine sediment cores and sea ice, we know that the global temperature has risen to 2⁰C higher than today, and sea levels rose about six to nine meters (19.69 to 29.53 ft). Landscape Neanderthals flourished for thousands of years it turned warmer and drier.

Pollen and insects in sediment cores, along with the remnants of wood from prehistoric hearths suggests that the previously open steppe became covered with forests and meadows. Smaller species of deer graze in rarer quantities than large herds in the steppes.

Forests with & # 39 are difficult place for modern human hunter-gatherers to earn a living, and this relatively small sacrifice may not be enough to sustain the Neanderthals. Several teeth Mule-Guercy have thin enamel strips (so-called linear enamel hypoplasia), which marks the time of severe disease or malnutrition. These people had a hard life, and probably close to starving a few times.

In fact, if Defleur and Dasclaux right, everything was very post-apocalyptic group, which was probably used as a mule-Guercy summer and autumn hunting camp (based on the layers in place of artifacts and bones). Neanderthals dating sites before the last interglacial period are much less likely than in the glacial periods before and after that it can be assumed that most Neanderthals left the region for a more hospitable region, or simply do not survive the change, the issue is not resolved a long way.

Neanderthal population density has always been quite poor in comparison with the later modern human groups. In any case, one version of the story is that a group in the Mula-Guercy, may have been among the only remaining in this area. The rest is all too easy to imagine how the tooth marks on the bones of the fingers to tell their own story.

Very human tragedy

It's the same story with a thread throughout our history: the Great Famine of the fourteenth century in Europe, who are starving time in Jamestown, the Donner Party, which survived the 1972 plane crash in the Andes, and the Algonquian stories about Wendigo.

Based on the distribution of residues, and how many fragments of broken bones still fit together, Defleur and Dasclaux say body in Mulla-Guercy, perhaps, to mention one, a desperate case of cannibalism, but not long-term strategy. Remains of six people on the & # 39; combined to feed a group of 15 to 25 people (about the size of the middle group of hunter-gatherers today) for two days, maybe four days with careful rationing. The following layers artifacts suggest that Neanderthals continued to use the camp to return in subsequent years, although there is no way to tell whether it was the same people, or if they know what happened there.

For modern people, cannibalism, even if it is the only way to survive, takes a psychological impact, and we are left to wonder how Neanderthals this site are handled experience. We know that, cognitively, the Neanderthals were a lot like us; they created art and jewelry, they used symbols to communicate their ideas, and they buried their dead. So how would they feel about eating their dead in order to survive? We can only guess.

"Cannibalism is allocated to Baume Mulla-Guercy not out & # 39 is a sign of bestiality or sub-mankind," wrote Defleur and Dasclaux. Anyway, it's gut wrenching human history is difficult choices in desperate times.

Journal of Archaeological Science, 2019 DOI: 10.1016 / j.jas.2019.01.002; (About Dois).

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