Neanderthal Bones Show Signs of Cannibalism

The entrance to the Troisième caverne Belgium. An international team of researchers has identified butchered remains of Neanderthals from the cave indicating cannibalism

New research has suggested that Belgian Neanderthals were eating each other about 40,000 years ago.

“Some bones had also been used as tools to retouch stone, specifically flint, which is very common in the area”.

Neanderthal cannibalism was hinted previously as clues emerged in France and Spain. The researchers said that markings like cuts and notches on the bone fragments indicated that the bodies had been butchered by human hands.

Neanderthals were a human subspecies that lived in Europe and western Asia for hundreds of thousands of years before becoming extinct between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago.

The bones show cutting and percussion tracks, which the researcher said are clear evidence of slaughter.

The bones had massive cuts and scrapes which indicate cavemen had sawed off flesh and even drained the bone marrow. “This evidence suggests cannibalism among Neanderthals”, Hervé Bocherens, one of the researchers, says in the press release.

This isn’t the first time Neanderthals were shown to engage in cannibalism. He also said that the butchering could have been not for food, but part of a ritual. “The many remains of horses and reindeer found in Goyet were processed the same way”. Before this discovery, there was evidence of ancient cannibalism at El Sidrón and Zafarraya in Spain, and at the French sites Moula-Guercy and Les Pradelles.

“Nearly a third of the Neandertal specimens bear cutmarks”. The methods include digital measurement and description of the bones, study of the original deposition conditions, isotopic and genetic analysis.

No word in the scientific lexicon is more evocative than Neanderthal.

In addition to revealing signs of butchering, the remains featured Neanderthal bones fashioned into tools.

Researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany found that Neanderthals had a taste for human bones and meat.

Their disappearance followed the arrival of Homo sapiens, ancestors of people living today, from Africa.

The Marillac site dates back about 57,000 years-or at least 12,000 years earlier than Goyet.

The new findings have opened up possibilities as regards the way late Neanderthals dealt with their dead before they slowly became extinct.