Thursday, December 07, 2006

Neandertal Cannibalism

Struggling for survival, Neandertals turned to cannibalism—even brain-eating—some 43,000 years ago, says a new study of mutilated bones discovered in a Spanish cave.

In addition to possibly chewing on human flesh, these Neandertal jawbones suggest that their owners looked different from Neandertals elsewhere in Europe. Photo courtesy PNAS
From National Geographic

Bones from at least eight individuals showed clear signs of cannibalism, including defleshing, dismemberment, and skinning, according to the study team.

The report provides some of the clearest evidence yet that Neandertals ate their own kind, says paleoanthropologist Antonio Rosas of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. Rosas is the lead researcher for the study, which is published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Evidence of cannibalism include cut marks made by stone tools used to remove flesh. The manner in which the fossil skeletons were broken apart is also telling, the study teams says. Bones and skulls look to have been smashed open to get at the marrow and brains inside, Rosas said.

"Brain is quite nutritious for fat and proteins, but especially fat," he added.

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