Feeling a tad peckish? For those of you sick of all that Boomer blah-blah rhetoric about eating a better, more balanced diet, consider this. Research recently presented to the Royal Society in London by the biologist Carles Lalueza-Fox of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, shows that twelve Neanderthals, all from the same family, had been eaten by their peers.
Yes, Our Neanderthal ancestors killed and ate their fellow ancient humans, including young children. The remains were discovered at the El Sidrón cave system, near Asturias, in northwestern Spain. The bones were found mixed up with gravel and mud in a small cave gallery, some 700ft from the entrance and included the bones of three female and three male adults, three teenage boys and three children aged between two and nine-years-old.
Accidentally discovered by cave explorers in 1994, with systematic excavation begun in 2000, the thirteen individuals were slowly retrieved in a painstaking operation designed to prevent contamination of the remains with modern human DNA. Luckily, due to the cold temperatures in the cave, which is 60 feet underground in an extremely remote location, the Neanderthals DNA was preserved for centuries, and wash therefore never close enough to make contact with the DNA of other Neanderthals, animals, or humans.
Utilizing modern forensics techniques, including DNA analysis, the researchers found that that the bones of the victims had been cracked open to extract the marrow, while the skulls were opened with some delicacy so brains and tongues could be eaten.
“All had been carefully butchered,’ Mr. Lalueza-Fox told the Royal Society of Archeology on Thursday, November 21, 2013, according to the Sunday Times. “It must have been a big feast. We think Neanderthal groups were about 10-12 strong so this may have been a complete family group, although someone may have got away.”
The original discovery was actually made in October 1994, but conclusions have been delayed as researchers had considered whether the cannibalized Neanderthals had actually been killed by modern humans or by fellow Neanderthals. This scenario was only ruled out when more cutting-edge dating techniques revealed that the remains pre-dated Homo sapiens in Spain by thousands of years. Analysis by scientists of the stone tools used by the killers, according to the journal Discovery, found that they had probably traveled a few miles, leading to the conclusion that the culprits were ‘friendly’ neighbors set up for a kill. As Neanderthals lived in small groups, it seems quite likely that they were prone to eating each other when no other food sources could be found, rather than modern humans who lived in larger groups and worked together as teams.
“‘I would guess they were killed in winter when food was short. There is no evidence of any fire, so they were eaten raw immediately and every bit of meat was consumed. They even cut around the mandibles of the jaw to extract the tongues,” said Mr. Lalueza-Fox. The victims had been slaughtered in a rock shelter situated above where the remains were found, their flesh stripped from the bones, which were then dumped. A powerful storm had then washed the bones, stone tools and sediments down a gap in the rock and into the cave where they were eventually discovered.