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Neanderthals eating their dead?

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Cut marks on the femur of Neanderthal child/M.D. Garralda et al

From ScienceDaily:

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.

The most likely explanation is that they wanted to preserve a fragment of the deceased. See, for example, the Catholic practice of preserving relics and the story of the bones of Joseph.

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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2 Replies to “Neanderthals eating their dead?

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    There are a number of know purposes for humans eating humans, and this includes societies who ate their relatives to preserve the “spirit” or “energy” of the tribe. Alternately, cannibalism was the ultimate insult to an enemy.

    There are documented cases of cannibalism by American Indians in the Southwest, although anthropologists have worked REALLY, really hard to come up with excuses for why whatever it was that occurred was NOT an example of extreme barbarism by an invading tribe despite accounts by European explorers in both North and South America of tribes where the warriors not only took bloody trophies of their victories, but also ate parts of their opponent. One man took hands as trophies and ate the meat, telling the Spaniards that he ate bear paws when he couldn’t find a man to kill. Another popular item was of course the heart.

    And of course there is the case of the Indians of Tierra del Fuego who amazed their European visitors by simply whacking a grandmother on the head and cooking her for dinner. When asked by the startled Englishmen why they hadn’t killed one of the dogs instead, a local replied logically, “Dog catch seal.” The implication being that the old woman had less utility than a dog.

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    mahuna, you wet your pants and ran away from the last thread. I will give you a chance to redeem yourself. Will you answer the question I posed there? In case you’ve forgotten, I will repeat it:

    Mahuna does not give the slightest nod at an attempt to answer the logic of the OP. He is too full of self-righteous anger to be bothered by such things as logic and reason. But let’s explore what he says in a passage dripping with sarcasm:

    So OF COURSE torturing innocents to death for fun and profit has been declared to be a “morally good thing”. You should read more history. As the bishop declared during the Albigensian Crusade in southern France when confronted with some thousands of captives that included both heretical Cathars and conforming Catholics, “Kill them all, God will recognize his own.”

    Now, in the OP I challenged the mahunas of the world to answer the following logic. The materialist premises compel him to say:

    There is no such thing as “good.” There is no such thing as “evil.” There is only my personal preferences competing with everyone else’s personal preferences, and all of those personal preferences can be reduced to the impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of each person’s brain. Certainly there is no external standard by which we can discern whether the personal preferences resulting from the electro-chemical processes in my brain are in any sense morally superior to the personal preferences resulting from the electro-chemical processes in anyone else’s brain.

    It seems obvious that mahuna believes the personal preferences resulting from the electro-chemical processes in his brain are in fact objectively and self-evidently morally superior to the personal preferences resulting from the electro-chemical processes in bishop’s brain.

    Do tell mahuna. Why is that?

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