Neanderthals from the French region of Poitou-Charentes cut, beat and fractured the bones of their recently deceased companions, as revealed by the fossil remains of two adults and a child found at the Marillac site. These manipulations have been observed at other Neanderthal sites, but scientists still do not know whether they did this for food or ceremony.
Since the Marillac site in France was unearthed, the discovery of fossil remains of animals (90% belonging to reindeer), humans and Mousterian tools has enabled the site to be identified as a hunting area for Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). But the most surprising thing about the site is the presence of a large quantity of bone remains of these hominids, many of which are yet to be analysed.
Now, a study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology has for the first time analysed the fragments of three individuals found between 1967 and 1980 at the French site dating back some 57,600 years. These are an incomplete diaphysis (middle part of long bones) of a right radius, another of a left fibula and the majority of a right femur. The latter belonged to a child.
The team of scientists does not know why they did this: “They might have been rituals — still in the 21st century these continue in certain parts of the world — or for food — gastronomic cannibalism or due to need,” asserts the expert, who remains cautious regarding the hypothesis of cannibalism, due to the large number of animal bones found on the site which could have been Neanderthals’ food. More.
Okay, so they probably weren’t eating the recently deceased for food.
Here is a research project for someone: Study why, when we are discussing Neanderthals, researchers assume that they behaved like a pack of hyenas when the evidence suggests they didn’t. Isn’t this Darwin’s followers’ neurotic need for a “sub-human human”?
See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?
Abstract: At the site of Marillac, near the Ligonne River in Marillac-le-Franc (Charente, France), a remarkable stratigraphic sequence has yielded a wealth of archaeological information, palaeoenvironmental data, as well as faunal and human remains. Marillac must have been a sinkhole used by Neanderthal groups as a hunting camp during MIS 4 (TL date 57,600?±?4,600BP), where Quina Mousterian lithics and fragmented bones of reindeer predominate. This article describes three infracranial skeleton fragments. Two of them are from adults and consist of the incomplete shafts of a right radius (Marillac 24) and a left fibula (Marillac 26). The third fragment is the diaphysis of the right femur of an immature individual (Marillac 25), the size and shape of which resembles those from Teshik-Tash and could be assigned to a child of a similar age. The three fossils have been compared with the remains of other Neanderthals or anatomically Modern Humans (AMH). Furthermore, the comparison of the infantile femora, Marillac 25 and Teshik-Tash, with the remains of several European children from the early Middle Ages clearly demonstrates the robustness and rounded shape of both Neanderthal diaphyses. Evidence of peri-mortem manipulations have been identified on all three bones, with spiral fractures, percussion pits and, in the case of the radius and femur, unquestionable cutmarks made with flint implements, probably during defleshing. Traces of periostosis appear on the fibula fragment and on the immature femoral diaphysis, although their aetiology remains unknown. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:99–113, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc – María Dolores Garralda, Bruno Maureille, Bernard Vandermeersch. Neanderthal infant and adult infracranial remains from Marillac (Charente, France). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2014; 155 (1): 99 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22557
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